Public Infrastructure Ministry launches renewable energy awareness campaign

The campaign logo being unveiled yesterday by Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson (left) and Inter-American Development Bank Mission Head Sophie Makonnen. (Photo by Terrence Thompson)

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure yesterday launched a public awareness campaign focused on the benefits of renewable energy technologies and energy conservation.

Expected to last for a period of six months, the campaign will be implemented by the Hinterland Electrification Company Inc. (HECI), under the slogan “Home, Work, Community—powered by 100% Renewable Energy. Let’s make it happen!”

It was disclosed at the launch that funding for the campaign is being provided by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) through the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The GEF is an international financial mechanism that provides grants and concessional funding to governments for activities that aim to protect the global environment in six areas: biodiversity, climate change, international waters, ozone layer depletion, land degradation, and persistent organic pollutants.

Stabroek News understands that the new campaign is intended to build on two earlier campaigns from 2016. The objectives are improving knowledge and understanding of renewable energy technologies among the general public; improving public understanding of the principles and need for energy conservation and substitution; creating awareness and support for government’s vision of transitioning towards renewable energy in the power sector and creating a favourable environment for achievement of energy policy targets as well as changes in attitudes and behaviour of energy consumers in Guyana.

Targeted in the campaign are indigenous communities, businesses, policy makers, the media, home owners and social media influencers, among other groups, who will be exposed to a series of activities that include workshops, an exhibition, school presentations, radio advertising and a television panel discussion.

Present at the launch yesterday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre were Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson; Shevon Wood, an economist attached to the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA); IDB Mission Head Sophie Makonnen; and Chief Executive Officer of the HECI Horace Williams.

Awareness of benefits

Williams, who also serves as coordinator for Guyana’s Sustainable Energy Programme, in brief remarks explained that the project received US$5M from GEF, along with contributions from the Government of Guyana. He related that the financing agreement for the project was signed in December, 2013.

Williams explained that the programme was conceptualized in the context of electricity generation in a country based heavily on crude oil and diesel, and therefore, was highly carbon intensive in nature.

Williams also mentioned the limited access to electricity in the hinterland when compared to the coast, abundance of renewable energy sources available in Guyana, the existence of a national policy to become a low carbon society, and the perceived risks and lack of knowledge related to the potential of renewable energy technologies, as other reasons for the programme’s implementation.

Key to the implementation of the project and programme objectives, he said, is awareness of the benefits of renewable energy technologies and the rational use of energy, so citizens can gain greater acceptance of renewable technology.

“There is need for increased awareness. Adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as flooding along the coastal plain, improve public health, create green jobs for Guyanese and boast local content, reduce energy bills significantly, and reduce [costs to businesses] to provide goods and services, ensure a regular supply of affordable, reliable electricity, improve energy security, and improve social and economic wellbeing of indigenous communities,” the CEO said.

“[As a result], the campaign launched here today is to communicate these benefits and more to others in the country. In the end, we expect to raise awareness to the level that stimulates behavioural change in all target groups on how electricity is consumed, [increase] general public appreciation and acceptance and support and widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies, [encourage] stakeholders to sooner than later review current policy and regulatory framework and identify policy regulatory gaps and develop measures to overcome them for the wise spread adoption of such,” he added.

Similar sentiments were shared by Makonnen, who, noting that renewable energy contributes to climate change mitigation, indicated that she finds the campaign to be timely.

“It is part of a transition that would allow Guyana to move towards… a cleaner energy matrix in line with the government’s strategy for becoming a green state and follow a path for a full renewable energy matrix down the line,” Makonnen said.

‘Meaningful role’

Delivering the feature address at yesterday’s launch was Patterson, who noted that the new campaign is consistent with the general thrust of the government’s green state agenda.

“Guyana’s renewable energy takes account of the country’s rich endowment of renewable energy sources, which offers the potential of solar energy, hydropower, biofuel, biomass… Most of these resources remain largely untapped, but my government is committed to exploring these resources in partnership with local, regional and bi lateral partners,” the minister said.

Patterson also expressed the belief that investments in renewable energy will propel Guyana’s energy transition, before making mention of an estimated cost of US$14,486, 926 for investment in solar farms in Bartica, Lethem, Mahdia, Port Kaituma, Matthews Ridge and Kwakwani.

Equally important is public awareness. The Minister said, “I believe that a public awareness camping will play a meaningful role in public perception, attitudes…how energy is produced, consumed country wide.”

“Every Guyanese can join this initiative by taking simple action to conserve electricity such as the turning off lights when not in using, using solar panel heaters rather than electrical heaters and by buying energy star or solar appliances. I, therefore, urge everyone to get involved in workshops, exhibitions and school presentation to ensure that our entire nation could be transformed by the use of renewable energy,” he added.

Meanwhile, Wood underscored the need for collaboration between government agencies, private sector, civil society and the public at large to realise sustainable energy development in support of a green Guyana. “The importance of an informed populace cannot be over emphasised, a population that is aware of pressing energy related issues can improve decision making about their energy use, take action to preserve energy and be more inclined to support national initiatives that exploit Guyana’s great potential for renewable energy initiatives. Moreover, an informed citizen understands that his or her actions on a micro level can eventually snowball into enormous change when joined with similar actions by others and thus, more action to reduce one’s carbon footprint in. It is hope[d] that this awareness campaign stimulates dialogue among citizens on the way energy is accessed and used and encourage[s] persons to make change[s] whether it be by integrating renewable energy technologies, change of behavior or [adopting] energy [efficient] technologies,” she added.

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