Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project…
– company says between US$650-$700M
By Gary Eleazar
At what was described as a “historic milestone” Senior Vice President of Sithe Global, Rafael Herz, yesterday unveiled to the media and members of the public the updated Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report (ESIA) on the proposed Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project.
Herz, for the first time since inking the deal with the government, fielded questions from the media and informed that the project has now been upgraded to a 165 megawatt (MW) plant.
He pointed out that with the increased MW it will not revise the price tag upwards given that the increase came about as a result of a modification of the design of the hydropower plant.
Herz pronounced that the price tag remains between US$650 and US$700M but could be revised either upwards or downwards in the future. He said that the actual hydropower plant to be built is estimated to cost just about $315M with the remaining costs primarily in the transmission line and the access road among other expenditures.
Herz said that over time things change, such as exchange rates – in particular the Chinese Yen against the US dollar – and the cost of materials.
The Senior Vice President did promise that the company will keep the media apprised of any such changes that could affect the overall cost of the project.
He said that ultimately the final price could not be known now or even at the time of financial closure, given that there could be “change orders” or “changes during the construction.”
Herz told media operatives that the company’s equity in project will be some 30 per cent of the total with the company looking to directly invest at least $150M. He did state that they are in discussions with the Guyana Government to see if it (Govt.) would like to buy additional equity.
Guyana has already committed US$15.4M for the construction of the access road which has been awarded to Synergy Holdings Inc.
POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENT
Speaking on the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) which would determine how much the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) will have to pay for the electricity provided over the 20-year Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) period, Herz indicated that he could not give a figure at this time as they were still in negotiations with GPL.
“We are still in discussions…we are at very advanced discussions.”
He said that the ultimate tariff for the consumer will be as a result of the cost of production.
“Within a few weeks the PPA will be finalised,” Herz said, promising that there should be no real surprises.
PLANT NOT EXPENSIVE
Herz insisted that the construction of the actual plant is not that very expensive compared to plants across the world, “bearing in mind the terrain and location of where the plant is being built.”
He pointed out that it is only about US$315M for the actual hydropower plant.
“This project is by no means much costlier than other projects,” Herz emphasised, adding that cognizance must be taken of the road and the transmission line.
The transmission line is pegged to cost some US$150M.
At the current price tag, Herz said that it will only cost US$1,900 per kilowatt, and “that is absolutely comparable.”
He said that if the cost of the transmission line is separated from the actual plant then it is recognised that the plant is not very costly.
With respect to the delays with access road and its impact on the Plant, Herz noted that “Obviously having access to the site at the point of requirement is critically important. It is a government-managed project and questions about it (the road) should be directed towards the government.”
Herz did say that they will help as much as they can, adding that in such complex undertakings delays are catered for, pointing to the fact that they are also looking at some delays in the financing.
“There is some delay in the construction of the road but I’m pretty confident that the government is on top of it.”
PROUD OF BUJAGALI
“The Bujagali project is a project we are proud of,” said Herz, speaking of the controversial Ugandan project.
He did concede that it has incurred more cost than initially expected but pointed it out that this was due to unforeseen geotechnical difficulties. He explained that the Bujagali project is much more complex than the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Falls.
He pointed out that the previous developers tried but failed to pull off the project, but Sithe Global along with the Ugandan Government managed to bring it back on track with the help of international financial institutions, and it should be commissioned this year.
Herz said that neither Sithe Global nor the Ugandan Government consider the cost adjustment to be unreasonable and feel that it is within an acceptable range.
He conceded that they would have preferred to have the cost of the project to be lower but opined that in the end the Ugandan people are still better off.
Herz asserted that the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project is good for Guyana even if the cost of the project were to be revised upwards.
The Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project is set to have an installed capacity of 165MW and the project also includes a new 270 km transmission line and new substations.
Currently, nearly all electric generation in Guyana is provided through small units burning either diesel or heavy fuel oil.
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