Gov’t unlikely to proceed with Amaila hydropower project -President

The new government is unlikely to proceed with the Amaila Falls Hydro-power Project (AFHP), President David Granger has said even as he noted that there is still serious interest in hydropower and they want to gather more information before making a final decision.

When in opposition, both APNU and the AFC had criticized the Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar administrations for the lack of transparency surrounding the AFHP. The AFHP was the flagship project of the Low Carbon Development Strategy and was supported by Norway but has struggled to get off the ground even as it was enveloped in several controversies.

In an interview last week, Granger told Stabroek News that it is unlikely that his administration would continue with the project as was planned by the Ramotar administration. He recalled that while in opposition, APNU and the AFC were not given a project document by the then government as it was never taken before the National Assembly and, as such, they could not examine the entire project.

He said that in opposition, they were only exposed to some aspects particularly the controversial road.

“So the opposition’s knowledge of the project was very fragmentary at best. It seems unlikely now that we would proceed with the project as it was described.

We are still interested in hydro electrical power generation but whether it would remain at that site is another matter,” the Head of State said.

According to Granger, there are a “hundred sites” from which hydropower can be generated in Guyana “and we have to find out that site which was selected is the best site, it may not be but we want to get some more information before we make a final decision.”

Norway has transferred US$80 million to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as Guyana’s equity in the project but based on Granger’s statements, the project is on ice.

Since the project was first announced, costs of the 165-megawatt hydro venture have escalated from the original US$450 million to US$858.2 million up to 2013.

The costs for the access road had ballooned from US$15 million when the contract was signed in 2010 to US$43.5 million last year.

Technical Adviser to the Amaila Falls Access Road project, Walter Willis had reported in January that at the end of 2014, the road works to the hydro project site were 95 percent completed, and if all goes well, the road would be handed over by March of this year. He had said that a total of US$28.9 million had been spent up to that point since the project’s inception in 2010 out of an overall cost of US$43.5 million.

The Ramotar administration was seeking another developer after the initial project developers Blackstone/Sithe Global walked away.

Sithe Global had pulled out of the AFHP in August 2013 citing a lack of political consensus. The company had issued explicit statements that unless all three parties in Parliament backed two measures     for the controversial US$858M project it would pull out. The measures were not fully supported and the company walked away.

In February, Ramotar said that another company had been identified to replace Blackstone/Sithe Global as the developer for the AFHP.

Speaking at the commissioning of a US$35 million power plant at Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara on February 9, Ramotar had said that government is working towards beginning the construction of the actual project before the end of this year. He subsequently lost the May 11 general elections.

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