By Kurt Campbell
The room came alive as foreign investors attending the International Energy Conference at the Guyana Marriott Hotel pulled out their phones to get images of a PowerPoint presentation that brought into focus the Amaila Fall Hydro Power project.
The presentation was delivered by Petroleum Economist at the Ministry of Natural Resources Winston Brassington who assured that the project will go a long way in helping the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) – the country’s main electricity generating company – meet the demands of the future.
Electricity demand peaked at 135 megawatts in 2021 with an expectation that it will triple in the next five years, possibly demanding that some 500 megawatts of power be available for distribution.
The demand is prompted by the developments about to take off in the oil and gas industry but Brassington has assured that with the electricity demand projections also flowing from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) projections, it will result in a tripling of electricity generation.
The Amaila Falls Hydro Power Project will make up the majority of new power to come stream at 165 megawatts with the government also pursuing an energy mix that includes solar and wind. Through the gas to shore project, another 300 megawatts will come on stream.
With a life of well over 75 years, the project will be built, owned and operated for a period of 20 years by a Chinese company – China Railway Group Limited – already selected through a bidding process by the government.
The project carries a price tag of roughly US$700 million in capital investment with the company backed by Chinese financial institutions putting in all the funding and after 20 years will transfer the project to the government at no cost. By this time the company is projected to be repaid for its financing.
But from the inception, GPL is positioned to buy all of the power through a power-sharing agreement. Brassington pegged that cost to be just about the average price over the next 20 years.
The government will put in place an independent world-class supervisory firm for the project and international operator. It will also issue the hydro licenses while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will offer an environmental permit.
Brassington has talked up the strength of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract which is the same one put together several years ago when the government had first made attempts to bring the project on stream.
It should be noted that China Railway Group Limited is the same company that won the bid back then before the project was frustrated by the then APNU+AFC opposition.
It was in 2021 that the government decided that it was not going to put any money into the project but will use private-sector funding.
The project will start by the third quarter of this year and is expected to wrap up construction in three and a half years.
There will also be the construction of substations in Linden and Georgetown and the creation of a reservoir.