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Experts differ on whether Guyana should focus heavily on hydro-power

Left to Right: Moderator of the Panel Discussion United Kingdom High Commissioner, Greg Quinn; Head of the University of Guyana’s School of Environmental and Earth Sciences (SEES), Dr. Paulette Bynoe; Presidential Advisor on the Environment, Retired Rear Admiral Gary Best, and Vice President of Conservation International Dr. David Singh.

Three experts are at odds over whether Guyana should place greater emphasis on hydropower or solar energy

Presidential Advisor on the Environment, Retired Rear Admiral Gary Best, Vice President of Conservation International Dr. David Singh and Head of the University of Guyana’s School of Environmental and Earth Sciences (SEES), Dr. Paulette Bynoe made their positions known at a European Union-sponsored panel discussion titled “What can be done to address Climate Change.”

Best wants Guyana to first capitalize on photovoltaic (solar) energy, eventually backed up small, medium and large scale hydropower plants. “I have no difficulty with hydro but at this stage of the game if we want to get in the climate change solution fight so to speak, I think an easy entry-point is going photovoltaic- going solar,” says Best who is currently pursuing a doctorate with a focus on Climate Change Financing in the Context of Small Island Development States.

The advisor cautions against engaging in cyclical behaviour of being attracted to alternative and renewable energy sources only when oil prices soar. Best has also floated the idea of importing waste from area of Guyana to another and eventually into Guyana to generate energy.

But Dr. Singh argues in favour of the right renewable energy blend that includes a large portion coming from hydropower. “My view is that the energy solution must have within that structure a backbone of energy over and above what photovoltaics, wind and that kind of thing can supply so I do feel that hydropower must be seriously considered even from now. I do not think we can wait,” says Singh who is also the Executive Director of Conservation International (Guyana).

An attendee at the panel discussion, which was held at the Marriott Hotel, warned against investing heavily in solar energy because the returns would be uneconomical. He added that, based on Guyana’s wind speeds, wind farms would satisfy only about 30 to 40 percent of the country’s energy needs.

The Head of the University of Guyana’s School of Environmental and Earth Sciences noted that by 2020 fossil fuels would not be phased out. Bynoe said the key would be to find the right energy mix based on cost-benefits and risks to be found in feasibility studies. “Even when you talk about hydro, you also have to factor in the issue of drought. We get a lot of rain now but the regional climate models by the UWI (University of the West Indies) group established at the Mona Campus would tell us that we are going to have a drier Caribbean,” Bynoe said.

Since winning the general and regional elections four months ago, the A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government has virtually scrapped plans by the previous government to build an almost US$1 billion hydro power plant at Amaila Falls, citing the overall astronomical cost and lack of feasibility.

Instead, the government supports the construction and re-activation of hydropower stations in the Potaro Basin and the Rupununi.

The panel discussion was held to stimulate public discourse about the European Union’s support  for the United Nations target to reduce carbon emissions to hold global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

So far 56 countries have submitted pledges known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs, to a UN roster that will form the backbone of a universal climate-rescue pact to be inked in Paris in December.