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Amaila Falls Hydro-power station back on govt’s agenda

The location of the proposed Amaila Falls Hydro-power station.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan Wednesday night announced that construction of a hydropower station at Amaila Falls is back on government’s agenda because Norway wants to ascertain whether the project is feasible.

Addressing the annual awards dinner of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), Jordan said a new study of the almost US$1 billion proposed project could start very soon.

“While on the Amaila Falls Project, I wish to announce that the government is in discussions with Norway to procure yet another review of this project. Norway seems keen to finance an independent review to, once and for all, pronounce on the viability (or non-viability) of the project,” he said.

Amaila Falls was supposed to generate 165 megawatts of electricity.

Under a US$250 million deal with Norway to compensate Guyana for retaining its standing forests, which scientists say help absorb greenhouse gases and slow down climate change, that European country has already transferred US$80 million to the IDB as equity in the Amaila Falls hydropower project.

Shortly after assuming office after the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections, government had decided to scrap the project, citing undisclosed advice from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that had shown that constructing that hydro-power station would have been too risky.

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s office earlier this month dismissed Finance Minister Jordan’s claim that Amaila Falls would have cost the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) US$130 million annually. Instead, Jagdeo’s office said that hydropower station would have saved GPL U$100 million per year “or put another way, AmailaFalls will generate 50% more electricity than was generated in 2012, for about half the cost. Instead of Amaila Falls costing GPL US$2.6 billion over 20 years, GPL would actually be saving almost US$2 billion, or GY$400 billion, at 2012 prices.

While in opposition, A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change had questioned the viability of the proposed Amaila Falls Hydropower Project to ultimately provide cheap energy to Guyanese. Due to the absence of political consensus then on the US$915 million project, a United States (US) company- Sithe Global-had pulled out from constructing the facility.

The Finance Minister also announced that government and the IDB were in talks to study the correct energy matrix and energy mix for Guyana to meet our needs for the next 30 years. “This study is due early next year and it will include the analysis of five hydro sites, including the Amaila site as well,” he said.

Jordan acknowledged the need to tap into cheap energy to help stimulate manufacturing and become globally competitive. “What we need is cheap energy to open the flood gates of manufacturing. What we need is good economic and political governance to open the flood gates of prosperity,” he added.

The provision of cheap and reliable energy, he said, is the United Nations’ 7th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

The Finance Minister identified other “anticipated zones of growth” such as the Intermediate Savannahs for agriculture and the harnessing of wind power, biomass and solar for energy. Government recently approved a clean energy project by a private developer, which will see 25 megawatts of clean, wind-generated power being sold to the national grid.

With this energy matrix, rice and sugar should have better cost structures, especially if our private sector partners with the Government to transform these industries through technological innovation, visionary thinking and competitive marketing.