Chand urges gov’t to reconsider Skeldon co-generation

-after US firm invests in Jamaican plant

President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) Komal Chand is urging the government to reconsider its decision to divest the Skeldon estate as he is confident that the co-generation plant at the facility is viable.

Chand’s optimism about the plant’s success was renewed after reading a report from Jamaica’s The Gleaner newspaper about a United States-based entity injecting some US$38 million to transform a sugar factory in Jamaica into a co-generation facility.

The report, reprinted in Tuesday’s edition of the Stabroek News, said: “The operators of the Hampden Estate have announced a deal with a United States-based entity to inject some US$38 million or J$4.9 billion to transform the Long Pond sugar factory into a co-generation facility.”

According to the estate’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Andrew Hussey, the Trelawny-based sugar producer is partnering with the US-based Arrakis Development to transform the Long Pond sugar factory. He said this will allow Hampden to continue producing sugar as well as electricity from the sugar-making process.

Komal Chand

Hussey said in the report that the transformation will essentially turn around the fortunes of the loss-making sugar producer, which had turned over operations to the government amid mounting losses.

Speaking to Stabroek News last week, Chand said that it is not too late for the APNU+AFC coalition government to move in the direction of co-generation because “it can augment in a big way to have revenues.”

He said co-generation is one of the proposals GAWU had made to the government to save the industry following consultations with the union and other stakeholders.

Government, he said, should take note of the transformation of the Long Pond sugar factory and “abandon their decision to sell out Skeldon factory and the land at a cheap cost.”

He reiterated his call for the government to save the sugar industry by “acquiring back the co-generation, so the [Skeldon] estate can keep operating” and that “they can [also] save Enmore and Rose Hall….”

If that happens, the unemployment rate would not be so high, he said, while claiming that “government wants to miniaturize the sugar industry and people would suffer.”

The Wales Estate was closed in December, 2016, and government has confirmed plans to close Rose Hall and Enmore Estates, and to divest the Skeldon Estate when it presented a White Paper on the future of GuySuCo in the National Assembly earlier this month.

According to Chand, the government also mentioned in the document about a co-generation proposal “but did not elaborate on where they would have it.”

He pointed out that the co-generation facility set up at Skeldon was made up of two turbines that powered the two boilers, using energy from bagasse.

He said the system provides 15 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.

According to him, the $9.5 billion that Skeldon generated from electricity is a huge sum, even though the factory did not perform well last year.

He said Jamaica is now investing in a co-generation facility because “the US company would have done the study and find it feasible to save that factory so it is willing to invest US$38 million.”

Chand was also confident that if there is “co-generation facilities at the other estates, it would make a significant contribution to the industry. There would be cheap electricity… and remnant to the green economy.”

He told this newspaper that the co-generation plant was run “as a business at a rate approved by GuySuCo.”

Meanwhile, according to the Gleaner report, the Hampden CEO said the transformation will return Long Pond to economic viability and that the company will be able to retain jobs, with the prospect of adding more on the power generation side of the operations.

Hussey explained that the co-generation process will be powered by steam that will be produced from bagasse during the sugar-making process. The steam will in turn be used to power turbines that will produce electricity.

He says even the dunder, which is a waste product of the sugar-making process, will be used to boost electricity generation, thereby reducing the environmental impact of the company’s operations.

The deal is awaiting approval by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, as well as the Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy, it was stated in the newspaper report.

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