– questions power purchase agreement; merits of project versus Amaila
By Jarryl Bryan
Months after it took office in 2015, the coalition Government had announced that it would facilitate a US$50 million, 25-megawatt wind farm project at Hope Beach on the East Coast of Demerara. But with intense criticism about a party-affiliated investor being behind the project, such talk eventually died down.
According to well-placed sources, however, negotiations to bring the wind farm to fruition are going strong. In an interview with Guyana Times, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament Juan Edghill made it clear the Party remained concerned about the transparency and accountability of the project.
“The issue with the wind farm is that they must be able to come clean and show what price GPL will be buying. Is it cheaper than hydro? Would it be driving down the present bill for GPL, that will positively impact the rate the consumers are paying? Or would it be a cash cow for an [Alliance For Change] AFC financier.
“Because with the hydro, we were bringing down the cost of electricity to 10 to 12 cents (US) per kilowatt for power,” Edghill explained. “If we are buying from the wind farm for higher than that, (then they are using it) to pass off money to an AFC financier as against bringing cheaper, renewable energy to the Guyanese consumer,” he posited.
Pointing to the success of the pressure it, as well as civil society, put on the Government to disclose the contract it made with ExxonMobil, Edghill vowed that the Opposition would do whatever it takes to get answers. The former Minister within the Finance Ministry also expressed concern over the overall direction Guyana’s energy sector was headed in.
“The A Partnership for National Unity [APNU]/AFC Government has not produced a comprehensive document to show how Guyana’s energy needs will be satisfied. While they have been talking about wind farms and solar farms, these are only three megawatt and five megawatt facilities when we need 170, 175 megawatts,” he said.
It was the AFC itself that identified International Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA) proprietor Lloyd Singh, an investor in the wind farm, as responsible for the party’s acquisition of its multimillion-dollar headquarters in February of 2016. AFC co-founder Khemraj Ramjattan had identified Singh as the one who provided the party with the advance sums for the property.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has been vociferously against the project, noting last year that if the Government persisted with it, the Party would vigorously challenge it in the court if needs be. Jagdeo had also pointed out that Singh was a known financier of the AFC.
“Imagine a man who built the AFC headquarters is now negotiating with (then) General Secretary of the AFC (Minister David Patterson) for a Power Purchase Agreement that was never tendered and announced long before the power mix study…This smacks of corruption.”
As such, the former President said even if Government were to go ahead with the project, the “PPP is not bound to respect anything that is done in this manner”. He said his party would vigorously oppose any Power Purchase Agreement negotiated in secret by related parties.
Jagdeo was also adamant that Government’s proposed solution in the form of a wind farm would not bring an end to the spate of blackouts and other woes, as he maintained that “this thing is a corrupt deal and we will scrutinise this… will press them hard to get the details of this contract”. According to Jagdeo, “we have to look at it; if we find that it is particularly egregious, then we will challenge it as we have done in the courts and use every means that is available to us to expose it.”
Regarding the capacity of the wind farm itself, Jagdeo has also raised questions on what would happen if the wind speed for any given day were to drop below what was required and as a result, generation fell to nil.
“What will be the back-up power that will kick in?” Jagdeo questioned, even as he sought to explain that with a wind farm, what is being purchased is energy and not necessarily capacity. Jagdeo had pointed out that hydropower offered both capacity and energy.
While not as stable as hydro, the use of wind turbines is a form of renewable energy. But the Hope Beach Wind Farm project is certainly no match for the proposed 165 MW Amaila Falls Hydro Project, a brainchild of Jagdeo that the coalition Government has since turned its back on despite a favourable review from Norwegian firm Norconsult.