The Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Sector Cooperation which was signed yesterday between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago is a misnomer. It should really be deemed an MOU on cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector. The MOU has two fundamental flaws. Firstly, it is very silent on renewable energy and secondly, it is one sided.
The MOU lists the areas of cooperation. And this involves exploration and production regulation and management technology transfer; information sharing, training and capacity building, development of policies in the areas of health, safety and the environment, local content, value chain projects, etc. Not a single line on renewable energy.
The Guyana Government has been touting something called a green state under which it hopes to phase out the use of fossil fuels. The Minister of Finance last year announced that Guyana has undertaken to go totally renewable energy by 2025.
Renewable energy is a central theme of the Guyana Green State Development Strategy (GSDS). A number of sources of renewable energy have been identified in the GSDS. Yet the MOU with Trinidad and Tobago speaks exclusively to cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector. This is serious omission on the part of the government, which has become so obsessed with green development that it failed to consult with the National Trust when it went ahead and painted State House green. Mention of the green state is conspicuous for its absence in the MOU.
Is it that Guyana felt that Trinidad and Tobago is an oil economy and has nothing to offer in terms of renewable energy? If so, Guyana is woefully misinformed.
Despite being an oil economy, Trinidad has been way ahead of Guyana in the development of a renewable energy policy. In 2011, Trinidad developed a framework for renewable energy. Guyana is still to produce a proper energy transition plan and its marquee GSDS is still being refined.
Trinidad’s framework for renewable energy is a practical strategy, unlike Guyana’s pie-in the sky approach to green development. It includes strategies to achieve renewable energy efficiency in the solar water heating, solar photovoltaic, energy efficient lighting, energy-labelling and green buildings. The policy also laid out plans for carbon reduction strategies in industry, the natural gas sector and for carbon sequestration.
Guyana has much to learn from Trinidad and Tobago in the renewable energy sector. It threw away a golden opportunity to try to work closer with the twin-island Republic in the area of renewable energy.
Guyana has done little in the renewable energy sector apart from installing solar energy systems in some government ministries and the establishment of a small pilot solar farm in Mabaruma. We have heard nothing about the proposed wind farm at Hope, or any major hydroelectric plants. The co-generation plant at Skeldon, which was producing power in May 2015 was allowed to deteriorate. Talk is cheap and all the talk about renewable energy will remain cheap unless Guyana locks into more renewable energy solutions and not just a handful of small-sized solar power initiatives.
The MOU allows Guyana to tap into the vast experience of Trinidad in the oil sector. One of the things Trinidad can warn Guyana about is the reserves to production ratio. Many Guyanese seem to feel that these billions of barrels of oil reserves will last forever.
At 500,000 barrels per day, Guyana’s four billion barrels of reserves will be exhausted in about 20 years. Guyana has not yet developed a plan to look for new fields. Trinidad can help in issues like these. But Trinidad is much smarter. The country has a crisis right now in its oil industry and it has had to lay off hundreds of these workers. Trinidad is interested in providing technical assistance to Guyana since this will allow its skilled persons to provide services, which Guyana does not have.
This is why the MOU is only about hydrocarbon. It is straight up Trinidad’s alleyway. Like the Bridge and Road Initiative, all roads lead out of Guyana.
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