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Another massive hydropower plant on the cards for Guyana

Guyana Chronicle

The new hydropower plant is expected to be quite similar to the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project

By Guyana Chronicle

Petroleumworld 11 17 2021

AS part of its landmark mission to have Guyana achieve the globally coveted use of 70 per cent renewable energy, the Dr. Irfaan Ali-led government will be pursuing the establishment of not one, but two massive hydropower plants.

This was outlined in the expanded draft Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which indicated that the second hydropower plant will be similar to that which is being constructed at the Amaila Falls, Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni).

According to the updated document: “It is anticipated that Guyana will build two hydropower plants over the next 20 years: Amaila Falls and another which is still to be identified.”
The document further stated that of the 33 potential sites, many were assessed in the 70s and 80s, when environmental and social standards were lower.

In light of this, those assessments will have to be updated in keeping with the environmental and other commitments of today. It is anticipated that once the assessments are finalised, the new site will be identified at least by 2025.

Once up and running, the second hydropower plant is expected to provide some 370 megawatts of electric capacity by 2035 and a further 150 megawatts of capacity by 2040. In the meantime, Amaila Falls will be the focus of the hydropower programme.

The average lifespan of a hydropower system, according to the LCDS, is 100 years. Over this period, replacement of the mechanical and electrical parts would be required, but those account for less than 30 per cent of the initial cost.

“Within the renewable energy resources available in Guyana, hydro will be important to provide firm capacity and short-term energy storage to compensate daily and weekly fluctuations from solar and wind,” the document noted.

It said too that in the long-term, hydropower will provide a cheaper solution than any other technology, due to its long lifespan.

In addition to the two giant plants, Guyana will also be implementing a number of small hydropower projects.

To this end, efforts are already underway to implement three such plants: a 150-kilowatt initiative in Kato, the rehabilitation of Moco-Moco hydropower site, which would increase the capacity up to 0.7 megawatts, and a new 1.5-megawatt hydropower plant in Kumu.

“The Moco-Moco and Kumu hydropower projects will provide energy to [the] Lethem grid. It is expected those two projects, in combination with an ongoing solar PV project, will provide the Lethem grid with 100 per cent renewable energy in 2023,” LCDS 2030 predicts.

The document noted too that through other small hydropower projects established to support regional grids and Hinterland villages, Guyana has a potential for 8.5 Gigawatt (GW) of hydropower on 33 hydropower plants, including storage capacity and run-of-river.


Meanwhile, the government has granted its “no-objection” for the Office of the Prime Minister to engage the China Railway Group Limited to construct the Amaila Falls hydropower station (AFHP) based on a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) model.

Previous reports suggest that the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is expected to cost just under US$1 billion, and once operational, will have the capacity to generate 165 megawatts of stable and reliable electricity for 11 solid months of the year, with the 12th month during the dry season earmarked for scheduled maintenance.

Currently, GPL sells electricity to the nation at about US$0.33 per kWh, and this is expected to be reduced by 25 per cent within the first year of the operations of the Amaila Falls project, and by 50 per cent within five years; and by the end of 20 years by as much as 80 per cent. The government, in its invitation for bids, had said that it expects the country’s power demands to be met by 2026.

The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, the pinnacle of government’s heavily-touted energy mix, was first identified in 1976 by a Canadian company named “Monenco” during an extensive survey of hydroelectric power potential in Guyana. And since then, various studies have justified and strongly supported the construction of the AFHP.

Recognising the suitability and attractiveness of the project, the pre-2015 People’s Progressive Party/Civic government had advanced preparation of AFHP by conducting extensive technical and financial studies of the project, including an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA).

The then PPP/C government had also mobilised international investor interest in the project, and a major private international investor, the Blackstone Group, had expressed serious interest in undertaking it.

Additionally, the then government had earmarked US$80 million earned by Guyana under the Guyana-Norway partnership within the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to help finance equity in the project.

However, these efforts to further the project were blocked and derailed by the then A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) opposition, which voted against the project in the National Assembly.

When the coalition assumed office in 2015, it hired an independent consultant from Norway (Norconsult) to review the project. The report, published in December 2016, recommended the development of AFHP as the best option for Guyana to achieve affordable, low-carbon electricity.

Despite this, the then David Granger-led government quashed the iconic project. Even after doing this, the coalition went on to make a global pledge to say that Guyana was well on its way to achieving the use of 100 per cent renewable energy.

Owing to the decision of the coalition, Guyana was forced to return to the global stage and lower its renewable energy ambitions to 70 per cent by 2030, owing to the implementation of a comprehensive energy mix using solar, wind, hydropower and natural gas.

As it is, Guyana has already secured US$75 million in funding to establish solar farms in eight grids with the intention of producing some 27.8 megawatts-peak (MWp) of solar power to the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS).

The farms are expected to be up and running by 2023, paving the way for solar-generated power to replace 30 per cent of the electricity being supplied to areas along the Essequibo coast, Linden, Bartica, Lethem, Mabaruma, Mahdia, Leguan and Wakenaam.

Further, as Guyana continues to balance its oil wealth with its global climate change commitments, the government is also pursuing the establishment of a US$900 million gas-to-shore project, which will see natural gases offshore Guyana, being transported to an onshore plant, using state-of-the-art pipelines. After this process, the gas will then be treated and converted to power, after which it will be received by a power plant to supply the national grid.




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