Apr 11, 2021 News
Gas-to-shore and Renewable Energy Projects…
Kaieteur News – Having more questions than answers is never ideal, but it can be particularly devastating when these questions surround matters that play a pivotal role in the wellbeing of an entire nation. The sad reality is that when it comes to the roadmap to sustainable and reliable energy, there are very few answers available to important questions.As regards Guyana’s energy woes, the only consensus is that it poses as an impediment to the country’s economic and developmental ambitions. Unfortunately, governments come and go without at least offering a sound plan to remove the impediment.
What the nation has been given are a bunch of ideas and projections, some of which contradict the others.
This begs the question, are politicians feeling their way in the dark?
The APNU+AFC-government was extremely optimistic in its quest to end blackouts and move towards renewable energy. The coalition made a commitment under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to become 100% reliant on renewable energy by 2025. This was its commitment even as that government seriously eyed a gas to power project. At the end of its five-year term, APNU+AFC had made little to no progress; however, even if the coalition had retained power, there was no way the 2025 target could have been achieved.
Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, while in opposition, was able to point out the coalition’s shortcomings. He criticised the commitment, calling it impracticable and proof that the APNU+AFC was stuck in “la-la land”. A few years later, not much has changed as there is still no definitive guiding light for the way forward even as Jagdeo’s government is pushing a new mix that will see renewable forms of energy playing a major role and moves are already afoot to revisit the previously ill-fated Amaila Falls project. At the same time, the PPP/C is proposing to spend an obscene amount of money on the gas-to-shore project.
Prime Minister, Mark Phillips said that the PPP/C will pursue a programme with an energy mix “that includes hydropower, natural gas, solar, and wind, which will lead to more than 400 megawatts of newly installed capacity for residential and commercial users over the next five years, and a reduction in the cost of energy by at least 50 percent.”
When the Prime Minister made these remarks, he was clear that upgrading the energy sector significantly is high on his government’s agenda. This would have been much more convincing if the agenda was driven by a clear-cut plan.
The goal, as articulated by Jagdeo, is still to move towards 100 percent reliability on renewables as per Guyana’s obligations to combat Climate Change. However, there has been no information on the division of sources of electricity. Since the goal is to move to renewable energy, will this new mix consider at least 50 percent of Guyana’s energy being obtained from renewable sources (wind, solar and hydro)? If so, is Guyana really going to spend nearly US$1B only to satisfy 50 percent of its energy needs? If not, then gas may account for much more, which means the move to renewable may not be as significant as some might hope.
The developed world committed to significantly moving away from nonrenewable forms of energy by 2030. Is Guyana going to be left behind? Indeed, Guyana is not yet considered developed, but none other than President Irfaan Ali predicted magnificent and transformational change is on the horizon. Therefore, by the year 2030, Guyana should be nearing readiness to throw its third world badge in the garbage.
If that coveted transformation is realised and we are in the game to jump on board the renewable wagon by 2030, what will Guyana do with our very expensive project that may be almost new in 2030? The reality is, unless Guyana rushes into this project blindly, there is no way it can be completed in time to get our money’s worth before it becomes time to switch. Here are some of the very fundamental measures needed if the gas-to-shore project is to garner public confidence:
· a technical feasibility study
· an economic feasibility study
· an Environmental Impact Assessment
· adequate legislation and policies including gas pricing policy and regulations to govern the laying of pipelines
· negotiations with citizens who might be affected or have to relocate
· carefully thought out decision on the source of funding
· training of Guyanese, unless we intend to depend wholly on the foreigners, and
· Guyana still has to figure what role GPL will play in all of this; again, relevant upgraded legislation will be needed.
The list goes on, and all these things take time. The government will have to achieve these objectives while running a country and catering to citizens whose concerns are not limited to energy. And, all while dealing with a pandemic.
The Attorney General (AG) already has a legislative agenda that does not include many of the pieces of legislation that will be needed. The feasibility studies have not started, and we still do not know if Wales is technically the best area. There is at least 120 miles of pipeline to be laid over a deep ocean floor with peaks and valleys. This, by itself, will require extensive seismic and geological studies to be done to determine that it is safe to lay the pipeline in that area. An assessment has to be done as well to determine if the laying of the pipeline will affect or stymie the exploration plans of other companies in the basin. Then there is the infrastructure on land. All things considered, the project is highly unlikely to be completed before 2025.
The proposed energy mix would be more advantageous to a country looking to transition, but already has the infrastructure set up for gas to power. For instance, Trinidad is looking to wean its people off natural gas and will use its gas as a transition tool. While others are looking to get out, Guyana is looking to invest, spend money to maintain; only to have to do away with it in a couple of decades? There is also a heavy cost attached to decommissioning when we no longer have uses for the pipelines.
When the evidence is examined, Guyana is not at the stage where Vice President Jagdeo should be pronouncing that the gas-to-shore project will begin in two years. The nation is at a stage where it must be decided where exactly we want to be in another 10 years and how we intend to get there.
If Guyana’s commitment to making significant contributions to the protection of the environment is to be taken seriously, even when married to the quest for reliable energy, then an energy transition roadmap is needed. Actual studies to determine the economic and technical feasibilities of the projects upon which we wish to embark must be had. These are the fundamentals.
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