By Zena Henry
The stalled Amaila Falls Hydro project has been described as a “tremendous loss” to the Guyanese people after politicians were unable to agree on its execution. This is according to United States Chargé d’Affaires, Bryan Hunt, who also reiterated the North American country’s support for alternate energy within the Caribbean region.
During an interview with Kaieteur News, the senior US diplomat insisted that the Amaila Falls project which would see Guyana accessing some 165MW of electricity was a “viable one” that should have materialized after several discourses among relevant stakeholders.
He referred to last week Monday’s meeting between US Vice President Joe Biden and Caribbean leaders in Washington, stating that the summit is an indication of the great support the US has for the region to move away from diesel powered energy to cleaner and more economical ways of providing electricity.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and US Company Sithe Global among other international bodies were involved in the Amaila Falls Hydro project here. Hunt said that as it stands, the US is unaware of the project’s current position, since they have not been involved in further discourse.
“We consider alternative energy sources to be absolutely integral to the future of energy security of the region. So in principle, the US is strongly supportive of the development of any alternative energy resources whether that is hydro power, geothermal, solar, wind; whatever makes sense in the given country’s individual context.”
Hunt said that given Guyana’s geography and the tremendous wealth potential for hydro power resources, “I would very much hope that hydro power development will move forward in this country and hopes that the US companies are ultimately able to be a partner in developing hydro power potential in Guyana whether at Amaila Falls site or any of the other sites that has been identified.”
Hunt related that for Amaila to be successful it depends of financials, hydrographic, partners, the price at which power is purchased, among other considerations.
Hunt disagreed however with comments that said that the Amaila Falls project was flawed, mismanaged and represented a waste.
Some of the arguments from opposition parties in particular were that thorough studies were not conducted on the project, especially when a photo of the dried up Falls was highlighted in a section of the local media in October of 2013.
Another argument put forward by the opposition is that companies making investment in the project would not necessarily have the country’s best interest at heart, but would be seeking to make profit.
Considering the latter concern, Hunt said that “that is not how international companies operate in the 21 Century.” He said persons involved in this argument might very well be misinformed, since the project involved very established international investors from the US, the IDB, and substantial bilateral donors, among others. Hunt believes that the project may have been, “the safest debt a country could have in moving toward hydro energy.”
Fip Motilall’s company, Synergy Holdings was the original developer for the Amaila Falls Project. He sold the licence for the US$700M project to US Company Sithe Global when he could not access the promised funding for the project. Sithe Global pulled out eventually, claiming that it would not go ahead with the project if all parties and relevant stakeholders were not onboard.
The Hydro Project would be Guyana’s largest financial undertaking if manifested. With limited information and initial problems, opposition parties were extremely reluctant to give their approval. They said the photo of the dried up falls vindicated their resistance to the project.
A Partnership for National Unity’s leader Brigadier (Ret.) David Granger, had reiterated at the time, his position for a Potaro Basin Development Authority to be put in place to monitor the project. Both APNU and the Alliance for Change (AFC) were also calling for information about the project to be laid in Parliament. They were claiming that the government was not making the project’s information available.
Vice President Joe Biden has however promised Caribbean nations that the U.S. would do what it could to help countries revamp their energy sectors. This is a major concern for the Western power house as the region is heavily dependent on oil shipments from ailing Venezuela.
It was reported that Biden basically encouraged Caribbean leaders to decrease their reliance on oil and move to alternative sources of energy; and the US would provide aid. He warned however that countries would need to firmly grip corruption and embark on viable projects.
Guyana has one of the highest energy costs in the world. However, with accusations of massive corruption and wastage levied against the current Administration, Amaila’s future is unsure. Also, with General Elections close by, the project may be at the mercy of the government of the day.
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