After streamlining the 165 megawatts (MW) Amaila Falls hydropower project for 2027, the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) has started site evaluations for a second hydropower project, its chief executive officer Dr. Mahender Sharma said recently.
Amaila had chosen to be the first hydropower project after a study by the Norwegian firm, Norconsult, determined that it would be the best project to begin Guyana’s transition to renewable energy sources.
Guyana has huge hydropower potential, Dr. Sharma noted. “The Amaila Falls, set at 165 MW, is just a tiny portion of what we can harness,” he said. The official reminded that an assessment done back in the 1970s determined Guyana’s hydropower potential to be 8.5 GW.
“That estimate was done at a time when population densities were very different, centers of occupation were very different, and environmental and social considerations were very different. So, 8.5 GW represents what is potentially there, technically there. To harness that, we need to get down on the ground and analyse all the environmental, social impacts…,” he pointed out.
A more recent assessment would produce a different number, Dr. Sharma explained, but the point is that there is tremendous potential. With projects like Amaila, he said there are lots of implications for social, environmental, economic and political spheres that impact how quickly they can be operationalised.
“To build a hydro, to build a solar farm takes a bit of time, takes a lot of time. Takes a lot of time to get the hydrology, get the technical elements, get the design, get the environmental work, look at all the social dimensions that go along with this, and those of you who have followed the Amaila history are all too familiar, we’ve been talking about this for a very long time,” he said.
He noted in the meantime that natural gas presents a unique opportunity for use as a transition fuel.
Guyana has natural gas in large quantities in the offshore Stabroek block.
Government and ExxonMobil are working together on the Gas-to-Energy project, which will start piping gas from the Liza field to shore for power generation and other purposes. The Gas-to-Energy project is expected to last 25 years, while Guyana develops its renewables potential. Government intends for Guyana’s energy mix to be 67% renewable by 2035, according to its Low Carbon Development Strategy.