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|By Dr. Richard Van West-Charles-In relation to Energy Security, it was clear that the People’s National Congress (PNC) under the Leadership of Forbes Burnham had its sights on Energy Security for Guyana as a means of moving it to modernization. What was clear for him, and the PNC was the economic independence of Guyana, which would lead to industrialisation and manufacturing, were all intertwined with the thrust for Energy Security. In 1974, the PNC administration received a grant from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to conduct a hydroelectric survey.
The UNDP appointed the World Bank as the executing agency and the Montreal Engineering Company was contracted as the consulting firm. The survey included a hydro resource reconnaissance and inventory for all Guyana, and the pre-feasibility studies of a limited number of sites. In the early 1970’s the hydropower capacity of Guyana was established at 7000MW spread over a number of sites some of which were not accessible, however on checking with Dr. Sharma of the Guyana Energy Agency I was informed that the spread is approximately 8500 MW.
Under the Forbes Burnham led administration, around the same time the Government began to inform the Akawaio Amerindian population of the Upper Mazaruni area, of the plan for the construction of the dam and the creation of a reservoir, for the hydroelectric project for the development of Guyana. The captains of the seven villages in the area were consulted at a meeting in Georgetown with the Minister of Energy Hon Hubert Jack. Objections were raised coupled with the objections by Venezuela and the Project was suspended.
In 1974 -1976, the prefeasibility study of the hydro potential of Amalia Falls was looked at and later in 1998.The objections of the Akawaio Amerindian population were noted. Discussions also centred on the rehabilitation of Tumatumari hydroelectric plant, due to the developmental considerations for the possible establishment of industries in Linden-Ituni area, where most of the required raw material reside.
Further to these approaches, in the 1980’s the Forbes Burnham administration supported the establishment of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) at the University of Guyana and strategically collaborated on Food and Energy Security. Under the leadership of Dr. Ulric Trotz and Mr. Ukarran Bhimsen worked on renewables and focussed in two broad areas (1) solar energy especially for solar drying (2) waste to energy technology. The interest in solar drying was derived from its potential as part of the agro-processing armoury for the farming community in Guyana and was linked to the work being undertaken as part of the food security objective.
The waste to energy programme consisted of programmes to use animal waste, rice husks and sawmill wastes for energy generation. For animal waste utilization, the programme embarked on a national biogas programme which had as its genesis a biogas construction training workshop, which was held in Guatemala and hosted by the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE).
After the workshop, participants were involved in a cooperative effort in the construction of the first biogas plant in Guyana. It was a cooperative effort involving personnel from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Army, The University of Guyana, and the Ministry of Energy, all of whom attended the OLADE course. The digester was constructed at the army farm at Garden of Eden.
Guyana’s waste to energy programme was further strengthened with the support and collaboration of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of India. At the end of five years, Guyana had built approximately 95 biogas digesters. Likewise, at Bellbag on the East Coast of Demerara there was an initiative which used Wind Power for refrigeration and Lighting. Lest I forget, the use of Bagasse, also for electrification.
The aforementioned are examples of the cross cutting developmental vision of the Government of the day in its quest for Food and Energy Security. As stated before, we have now come full circle to Food and Energy Security as an important requirement. However, we could have been a far way down the road had it not been for the Cold War and our own political misunderstanding of the approaches of development by successive governments, which must be studied for the lessons learned, best practice and building on the knowledge acquired for the collective.
As we move to the Oil and Gas Economy, emphasis on the determinants of our country’s development must be prioritized in both word and deed. Our misdirected idiosyncratic narrow political and ethnic orientations whether they be from a group or individual must not be tolerated and sanctioned. Our Founder Leader, as we proceed on our developmental journey, it is timely to recall his entreaty that “In Our hands lies the Destiny of the Cooperative Republic. Let these be safe hands.”