“The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil” – Sheikh Zaki Yamani, former Minister of oil of Saudi Arabia.
It is with that quote in mind that Guyanese must realize there is an endpoint to oil resources even before the oil well runs dry. We must also understand that oil itself is surely not for the future per se but something that needs to be managed and understood now. In our world today, oil itself is being bombarded by many external factors such as the threat of global warming that harms its future use. The oil then should be seen as a catalytic resource for the country. Guyana as a country must ensure that wealth from the black gold is used effectively if we are to cement our place up the developmental ladder. One pivotal investment that is vital to securing our position in the future would be in a good renewable source of energy.
The importance of renewable energy today cannot be understated. We see the world today is being molded around renewable energy. In fact, the international energy agency expects that in the year 2020 renewable energy will cover about 26% of the total energy resources. This is almost double what we had globally in 2013. Additionally, global sales of electric vehicles increased by 63% in 2017. Also with frameworks like the Paris climate accord nations will soon begin to push even harder for renewable energy power. These worldwide changes will be felt by Guyanese people in many of the things we do. The backdrop of the increasing demand for electric vehicles will push our people to buy these types of vehicles due to their ease of use and relative economic viability and will also push the nation as a whole, in this direction which is extremely necessary.
Some countries have already begun implementing significant changes in their legislature to ban the sales of petrol powered vehicles in the near future. Britain is planning to ban the sales of petrol powered vehicles by 2050. France plans to ban the sale of their petrol-powered vehicles in 2040, India in 2030, and Norway in the year 2025. Norway independently leads in this area as they have already gone to great lengths to integrate green practices rapidly. They have implemented significant tax cuts for electric powered vehicles along with benefits such as free recharge and free parking for these types of vehicles. Additionally, 95% of Norway’s electricity comes from Hydropower. These steps seem even more laudatory since Norway is the 15th largest global producer of oil.
Investing in renewable energy can monumentally benefit Guyana economically. Firstly, Guyana is a country of many resources whether it be gold, bauxite, manganese, copper, agriculture, timber, etc. Many wonder why is it that Guyana is so rich in resources and yet it lags in development compared to other countries in our region. In short, it is due to the lack of processing ability. Many of the resources we possess are not afforded the opportunity to have value added to it. For instance, we will sell tons of bauxite ore to countries like Russia that have the capacity to turn the bauxite into useable Aluminum and reap significantly more profits from this good. The same happens with wood when turned into furniture. What has significantly hampered Guyana in the processing and development of these resources is the lack of cheap and reliable electricity.
A 2007 World Bank study stated that Guyana lacks the capacity to supply energy to the country. They cited that deficiencies in the infrastructure pose an important constraint on the development of the country. Additionally, issues with reliability have caused companies to reduce competitiveness since outages cause loss in revenues. Many of these companies have to use small generation systems using diesel engines that are costly in terms of fuel and maintenance. Prices for electricity are also the 3rd highest in the Caribbean due to the lack of competition for the main power supplying company. The report also cites the reliance on expensive imported oil that is exposed to volatile commodity markets. Oil also takes up a monumental 60% of the power company’s expenditure. Today many believe this situation has gotten worse even though there have been increases in the capacity of the power company.
Guyana investing in a viable source of energy to power our country could see the cost of operations at the Guyana Power and Light decrease significantly. GPL will then have the ability and resources to tackle problems of reliability while decreasing the price for electricity because the power will be given to us by nature. We will also have the capacity to indirectly solve problems of employment and poverty since we will be able to attract more processing investment and will become more power secured. Additionally, the country will have the ability to provide many processed commodities here which will help to reduce their prices since we will no longer need to pay for the importation of such goods. Our exportation of value-added goods will also help with increasing our GDP. Many other facets of our country will see improvements with more disposable income in the hands of the citizenry.
Guyana is blessed with an abundance of sources of renewable energy. Due to our closeness to the equator, there is an abundance of sunlight for solar, the trade winds along with valley and mountain breeze from our mountainous areas for wind energy. Guyana can also explore the use of nuclear plants due to the large amounts of Uranium found here in 2009 along with the lack of natural disasters such as earthquakes. Guyana also has numerous waterfalls that can be utilized for energy. In addition, there is the potential to explore unconventional sources of energy such as biogas, wave energy, and water turbines. Overall, if we were to start investing in renewable sources of energy we are blessed with a bounty to choose from.
Of the many renewable energy resources, Hydropower is possibly the most viable for countrywide electricity. According to the World Bank, Guyana can potentially yield 7600 megawatts of electricity. This is more than 25x the amount of electricity we have been generating. Guyana has flirted with Hydropower use for some time now. The most significant was the Amaila which was halted due to qualms over the amount that was being spent on the project and also the perception of corruption in the project. However, with the potentially large amount of money to come from oil we should explore the reigniting of that project since monies were already spent on developing an access road to the location among other infrastructural work. According to the Guyana Energy Agency, there are about 63 potential Hydropower sites. Recently the government of Guyana also conducted feasibility studies on Moco Moco, Kato, and Tumatumari with the hope of exploring these potential sites in the future. Guyana should be aiming to have at least two of these dams operational by 2025.
The world around Guyana is evolving in such a way that oil has no future in it. Guyana as a country must try its best to not only keep up but dominate when it comes to renewable energy. Guyana should not stand still in the bare night without comfort but elevate itself to compete in a world moving towards green energy. Green energy can help us realize our industrial potential which could be a springboard to further success economically. Finally, the country should continue to push along with an already initiated hydropower projects that can help to contribute to the country’s power needs.
Michael Philander – Biologist