Guyana will put in a bid for a cut of the grant financing for renewable energy projects being made available by the United States but President David Granger says it will be insufficient for the government’s plans to reduce national dependence on fossil fuels.
“That’s not serious money. Guyana will put in a bid… but that is not enough seed money for the magnitude of project that we are envisioning,” Granger said on Friday in response to a question during the recording of “The Public Interest.”
The President along with the heads of other Caribbean countries last week attended the US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit in Washington, where details of the Clean Energy Finance Facility were discussed. The US will make available US$10 million for renewable energy projects in the Caribbean and individuals, organisations and state actors have up to March 2017 to apply for funds of up to US$1 million to support such initiatives.
Granger mentioned that Guyana is the single largest Caribbean state with a scattered population over a vast area. “It means that we have to have the ability to penetrate the communities—villages in the hinterland—and provide them with renewable sources of electricity. We have to make arrangements to exploit our hydropower potential. We have to look at wind farms along the coast. So, the scale of providing renewable sources of electricity in Guyana is much greater than that in our Caricom states,” he said.
He added that Guyana should not even be looking abroad for assistance but rather should concentrate on making a national appeal for support and assistance.
“I don’t think that we should look abroad for assistance. We can look for partners. We can look for cooperation but we have to accept from now that the responsibility is ours and this is a matter that the government must engage the nation and engage the private sector with,” he said.
According to Granger, given that the money being advance by the US is inadequate, Guyana will have to come up with alternative means of financing. “We have to learn to rely on our own resources and I believe that is a good lesson for Guyana: don’t depend on other people to help us,” he said.
Granger said that during the conference there was a segment which allowed the business community to display and discuss some of their projects and programmes to the Caribbean heads. He assured that Guyana will be looking to engage with the private sector here and abroad with regards to its renewable energy initiatives. “I would not say that we are going to be getting any handouts from international organisations or foreign countries. We have to use our own expertise, we have to engage the private sector and embark on it just like if we are going to sugar or timber or rice production. There is no gift here. We have to take responsibility and ownership for this programme,” he stressed.
President Granger said it will take a national effort to reduce Guyana’s dependence on fossil fuels and increase the country’s use of renewable energy.
“We are addicted to petroleum …whenever we look we see a generator. We have to take solar energy seriously. We have to deal seriously with wind power, especially along the coastland. We have to deal with the great hydropower potential of this country, which is unequaled in the Caribbean. We have to deal with biomass coming out of our rice and sugar plantations and I think in these ways we will be able to move more decisively into producing sustainable energy for our communities,” he said.
Granger pointed out that there is a lot Guyana can do to achieve a more affordable, safe and secure energy future.
“Guyana is not at the head of the race. I think for years we have been locked into the Low Carbon Development Strategy, which in itself does not answer all of the questions facing Guyana, especially those posed by Climate Change,” he said.
According to the President, the lesson he took from Washington, apart from the fact that many Caribbean countries are well ahead, is that Guyana at a national level needs to make a determined effort to get rid of the “addiction to petroleum.”
Noting that Guyana is way behind in terms of renewable energy, he said that in the past Guyana has been handing out “a few” solar panels. “We need to start thinking about solar farms, we need to start thinking about wind farms, so that within a conceivable short period of time, maybe ten years or so, Guyana could actually reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and increase its use of renewable sources of energy, particularly solar, wind and water, which are in abundance. That’s the lesson which I brought from Washington,” he said.
According to Granger, everyone, including the private sector, has a role to play in utilising solar energy. “The whole country has a role to play, not just the private sector, so I am glad that one laboratory [Eureka Labs] has done so but it simply sets the pace for other agencies…and also the entire government sector, school, hospitals, police stations, university. We all have to think solar, we all have to think renewable energy. So, it’s not just a job for the private sector. There has to be a national effort …right now, the effort is not national in scale and scope,” he said.
Granger said that using renewable is essential and not a question of option. “We have to go renewable,” he stressed.
Asked about government’s immediate plan to push Guyana in the right direction, he first spoke of providing the education and exposure to students, teachers and persons in the private and public sectors. He said that people need to know what is available and this educational drive can come in various forms, including exhibitions.
Secondly, he said government aims to reduce tariffs on all equipment that would be used to generate renewable energy and, thirdly, it will in the next 24 months take the lead in converting government buildings into buildings which use renewable energy.
Asked what project is at the top of the list, Granger spoke of Bartica, which he reiterated is being prepped to be a model community which could display all of the aspects and measures for implementing the sustainable renewable energy policy.
He said that students and businesspersons can go there and see renewable technology at work. “So, yes there is a plan to convert Bartica into our first green town,” he said, while adding that there is also a plan to incorporate the Iwokrama Project into Guyana’s economy even more fully than it has been in the past. “It is not a project we allow to be run by foreigners, it is ours, we must own it and I do believe that that Iwokrama Centre would be at the heart of our sustainable energy policy in the future,” he added.