Amaila Falls’ US$80M diverted to solar farms project

Guyana has been given the green light to use monies from the Norway Agreement — in which the country is being paid for sustaining its rainforests to absorb global carbon emissions — to fund a 100-megawatt solar energy project.
This was revealed by Minister of State Joseph Harmon at this week’s post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday. He said a Guyanese delegation comprising of himself, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, Infrastructure Minister David Patterson and Amerindian People’s Association executive Laura George recently secured approval from Norwegian authorities to divert the funds that were initially earmarked for the controversial Amaila Falls Hydro Project.
“We have been now given sort of the green light that the $80 million can be utilised for solar energy… and so: (to) those persons who are wedded to this idea of Amaila Falls or nothing, this is basically making it very clear,” the Minister of State noted.
He explained that the Guyanese delegation was able to convince the Norwegian authorities to accept the use of natural gas as a clean and cheap alternative during Guyana’s transition.
“They were prepared to accept that as a transitory arrangement, whereby: because natural gas was a resource that belongs to Guyana; that it was cheap and it was clean; that it was a sovereign decision as to what is done… It was felt that if you had natural gas in there, there was no Norwegian money; [but] I believe we had a more practical discussion,” Harmon said, while adding that the officials also saw a concerted effort by the visiting delegation, which comprised of three senior ministers promoting the solar project coupled with the support of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and Conservation International.
Harmon posited that Finance Minister Winston Jordan would soon be activating, with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank, the process to release the monies earned by Guyana for preserving its rainforests – an agreement that was entered into under the Bharrat Jagdeo regime.
It was recently reported that Government is set to pursue a 100-megawatt solar farm project. According to Minister Harmon, this proposed project will see several solar farms established to feed energy into Guyana’s grid.
“It doesn’t have to be one space in which that is going to, but the accumulated amount that goes into the national grid adds up to that… From what I’ve seen in the GPL study, we’ll try as far as possible to locate them as close to where you have these sub-stations, so it will link very easily into the grid. So you won’t have to have the farms in some far place and then you will now have the issue of having to have transmission lines and all of that,” he posited.
Moreover, the State Minister outlined that this solar project will bring about several benefits. This includes a 15 per cent reduction in the country’s reliance on fossil fuel in the first year after the project has taken off. He added that by the second to third year, there is estimated to be a 50 per cent displacement on Guyana’s reliance on heavy and fossil fuels.
“This is going to make a major change insofar as our finances are concerned. We won’t be buying diesel and so on for our generators. Of course there’re still gonna be get kept as backup, but our frontline arrangement is gonna be solar. And in the presentation, it is made very clear that solar is now what the world is embracing,” he asserted.
Harmon went on to note that this move to solar power is driven by the fact that it is much cheaper, with Germany and China having mastered efficient and low cost production of solar materials. While Government is going ahead with the solar farm project, Minister Harmon has clarified that Government is still embracing hydro-projects as an alternative energy source, but will be doing so with only smaller projects like the Moco Moco Hydro, which was recently approved.
Nevertheless, he posited that Government is open to a private company investing in the Amaila Falls Hydro Project.