Amaila Falls generation capacity could vary from Gov’t predictions

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Between 1974 and 1976, the government of Guyana conducted a pre-feasibility study of the hydropower potential at Amaila Falls, where it intends to build a hydropower project to generate some 165 megawatts of power. In 2002, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project was completed and 20 years later, government still believes the project remains a viable option.
The confirmation of the project’s potential however, can only be achieved by analyzing that number, which may prove to be different today.
This is according to the Head of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), Dr. Mahendar Sharma. The Energy specialist gave this perspective on Thursday, during an Energy Roundtable Discussion hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AmCham) Guyana, under the theme “Advancing Opportunities in Renewable Energy”.

Sharma was asked to speak specifically on how Guyana is reconciling oil and gas and renewable energy and highlight a few key initiatives being pursued on that front.
Reminding members of the audience of the lyrics of Guyana’s National Anthem that speaks to its lush waters, the GEA Head explained, “We have huge potential for hydro. Back in the ‘70s we estimated this to be some 8500 megawatts (or) 8.5 gigawatts. The Amaila Falls set at 165 megawatts is just a tiny portion of what we can harness.”
To this end, he was keen to note that given that these studies were conducted since the late 1970’s, the project’s potential can vary. Dr. Sharma reasoned, “…that estimate was done at a time when population densities were very different, centers of occupation were very different and environmental and social considerations were very different. So 8.5 gigawatts represent what is potentially there (or) technically there, to harness that we need to get down on the ground and analyze all of the environmental (and) social impacts and that number, the harnessable quantity of that may be different.”
In 2016, Norconsult, a Consultancy firm out of Norway was hired by the former government, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Coalition to review the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project in Guyana.

In a copy of the document seen by the Village Voice, it is understood that solar power was considered as an alternative for the hydro project. It said that Photovoltaic (PV) Solar and wind projects were at the time a more expensive option. The document however goes on to explain that “recent projects in other developing countries have shown that the cost of PV solar projects have dropped significantly and may now be more competitive, but from a system point of view, solar power is not sufficiently stable and can therefore not be recommended as the main sourceof power in the main grid. Solar may be used in off-grid areas with battery back-up and or in the main grid for generation during day-time, but it cannot function as source for base load power.”
While solar remains an option, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration is forging ahead with the project, using centuries old predictions.
Even as the viability of the project remains in question, specialists have also been arguing the project’s efficacy to hopefully reduce electricity bills in the near future. In fact, vocal environmentalist, Alfred Bhulai of Think Engine Institute & Energy Services’ (TEIES), in a missive November last year said that the projects figures ‘just don’t add up’.

Bhulai contended that with a price tag of US$900M for 165 MW of power, this works out “at 38 US cents per kWh unit of electricity.”
Since then, it has been revealed to the public—without any documentary study detail—that China Railway Group Limited will build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) the AFHP at no cost to Guyana except for 7.737 US cents per kWh that GPL will pay for 20 years.
As such, according to Bhulai, this would mean that “if we get the full 165 MW power from AFHP over the 20 years, we should receive 29 TWh (Terawatthours) of electrical energy, for which GPL will have to pay US$2.24B. in order to access this energy.”


Nonetheless, the senior Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh in January of this year said that the Chinese contractor, China Railway First Group, which was granted approval to construct the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, will commence operations on the mega venture this year. Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo in November of last year, during a press engagement, told reporters that a decision had been taken by Cabinet that government would be approaching the selected contractor to negotiate on the way forward. He said the administration is looking to generate power at some US$0.07 (cents) per kilo watt hour (KWH). He speculated that with GPL purchasing power at that price, “we can still sell power at 15 cents per KWH, which we are hoping to do because now it’s 30 cents, and still make a good profit for GPL…we are very pleased that the bids came in and we have these offers now and the project is going to move forward.”

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Purchase of 50MW power could cost GPL $375M monthly

Mon Apr 25 , 2022
Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice. …Environmentalist urges solar investment instead Using figures from the last Power Purchase Agreement the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc. had with Giftland Mall, it is understood that the 50 megawatts (MW) of power that the company is seeking to purchase, can cost around $377 million, monthly. Last Sunday, the […]

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