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Solar-powered votes?

FLASH BACK: A resident in an Amerindian community receiving a solar panel (GINA photo)

The incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration will welcome votes from Amerindian hinterland and coastal riverain communities in exchange for the thousands of low-powered solar home systems that have been installed during the past 15 years.

“We have, indeed, been addressing power needs in hinterland communities for over a decade and if, indeed, it were to be associated with a fitting response by the recipients,  then I think this is quite reasonable,”  Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon told a news conference.

The PPPC-led administration has been placing great emphasis on the development of Amerindian communities, as it seeks to compensate for a shortfall of support from its traditional East Indian support base for several reasons including apathy, a youthful voter population, over-confidence, a feeling of neglect in some quarters, alleged corruption and poor security.

Luncheon announced that 6,000 home solar systems have been distributed and installed in selected households in Amerindian communities and riverain coastal communities that are not powered by Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) at a total cost of GUY$166 million.

While each photovoltaic system can provide up to 65 watts of electricity- about the equivalent of one 60 watt incandescent light bulb- Luncheon said a little light is better than none. “The question of whether sixty-five watts represent adequate power, I think in the midst of darkness…in the land of darkness sixty-five watt is indeed bright lights and power,” he said.

When the project began in 2005, the panel installed could have provided 15 watts each and then the capacity was increased to 25 watts and now 65 watts.

Luncheon explained that 3,000 of the systems would be installed in Amerindian communities other than those in which 13,000 solar home systems have been set up.  “Long before we were finished distributing the thirteen thousand, it became clear that there was serious underestimation and indeed that population that I referred to as un-served maybe as many as three thousand additional households were identified,” he said.

He said the other 3,000 have been installed in households in riverain coastal areas after an assessment by Guyana Power and Light showed that even with GPL’s expansion and the eventual construction of the Amaila Falls Hydropower Plant those areas would not be hooked up to the national grid in the foreseeable future. “Looking at projections from GPL, these riverain coastal areas that are likely to remain off-grid for quite some time to come, notwithstanding GPL’s increased generation and GPL’s transmission and distribution initiatives,” said Luncheon who is also Head of the Presidential Secretariat.

Trained residents of those communities are expected to install the panel systems in the households.