Consultants raised questions about the water flows at Amaila

I had hoped, vainly it seems, that the government and the hydroelectric power team led by Mr Winston Brassington would take the necessary steps to address the country’s energy situation and GPL’s losses following Sithe’s withdrawal from the Amaila Falls project. Instead Mr Brassington continues to create his own realities and enemies. The latest case of this is his response through NICIL, to public concerns over the findings of the recently released 2009-10 Economic and Financial Evaluation Study done by Mercados Energeticos of Argentina in connection with the water flows at Amaila. Mercados reported on the possibility of low or no power from Amaila during the eight months dry spell each year.

NICIL responded that:

i) “A multiplicity of comprehensive and extensive evaluations of the hydrological conditions of the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project site has been carried out by a number of international engineering firms”; and

ii) “All the findings create a sound basis for the hydropower potential of the Project and reaffirms the Project’s acceptable hydrology risk to the Government of Guyana, thus, setting the stage for the outlook of reliable, stable and a dependable energy source for the people of Guyana.”

These can hardly be described as even half-true. Let us examine the “multiplicity of comprehensive and extensive evaluations” and pose some questions to Mr Brassington.

1. That Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) did an analysis in 2001 of historical rainfall and river-flow measurements from several locations in the region of the project.

(a) Would Mr Brassington confirm or deny that one year following MWH, Kaehne Consulting Limited, the Canadian consultants contracted by the Government of Guyana, raised concerns that “the developers have based the project viability mostly on data collected in an adjacent water shed (Kaieteur) and the Amaila/ Kuribrong River basin hydrology has been inferred from this. At no stage have concurrent hydrological data been collected to verify the relationship between the two water basins.”

(b) Is Mr Brassington suggesting that the government did not advise Kaehne of the MWH report even after the serious and emphatic statement by Kaehne in the preceding paragraph?

(c) Was Kaehne’s recommendation that a “permanent station be set up at the base of Amaila Falls and should record daily stream flow volumes from now until such time as flow is curtailed as reservoir filling occurs,” acted upon?

(d) If this was done, was it done by Synergy, the licensee, and are the findings available?

(e) Could Mr Brassington confirm that Mercados in their 2009-10 study reported that the hydrology study done by MWH encountered some difficulties due to lack of direct hydrological data at the project site?

2. That in 2008, “an update review of the hydrological study review done by MWH was completed to assess the validity of the monthly flow estimation for the project site.”

In view of the intended or accidental ambiguity of this language would Mr Brassington provide the name of the consultant who did the update review.

3. The Mercados Report of 2009-10

(a) Can Mr Brassington state why NICIL’s statement was silent on the Mercados study which was commissioned by the government and Sithe?

(b) Is it because Mercados found that the design of Amaila Falls Project encountered several problems arising from the lack of hydrologic data including:
• uncertainty regarding the expected power generation?
• uncertainty as regards the maximum flow adopted for the design?

(c) Or that Mercados recommended that in order to obtain more accurate information, it would be desirable to install a hydro-meteorological station in a section of the river that is representative of the project?

(d) Or that it concluded that in wet months (June to September), more power can be generated and demand is covered. And in months with low hydraulicity, there is a deficit in power generation and demand is only partially covered?

While it is not unusual for public servants to spin data from time to time, it is unacceptable when that spinning involves a project costing at least US$900 million and affecting the entire economy and consumers and taxpayers. Mr Brassington ought not to be allowed to continue getting away with this pattern of behaviour.

I have privately and regularly pleaded with him to concentrate on his chairmanship and responsibilities at the GPL. Billions of dollars in fuel savings and the reduction of subsidies did not have to wait on Amaila but are within the grasp of the board and management of GPL.

Once Sithe’s licence remains valid the government has no control over the Amaila project site

The debate on the Amaila Falls Hydropower project continues to rage two weeks after Sithe Global, the project sponsor, declared that it had pulled out. Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon later pronounced the project dead, but then dismissed calls for the revocation of the licence to Sithe by seeming to joke about the value of a licence of a dead project.

Dr Luncheon knows that it is in Guyana’s interest and power to revoke the licence and that once the licence remains valid and unrevoked the government has no control of the designated project site. He must know too that Sithe’s notification to the government of its decision to walk constitutes more than enough grounds for the revocation of the licence.
Continue reading Once Sithe’s licence remains valid the government has no control over the Amaila project site

Response to Gouveia

Dear Editor,

Captain Gouveia’s widely publicised open letter on Amaila in the dailies juxtaposes extracts from statements by Drs. Clive Thomas and Anand Goolsarran and the two signatories to this letter on the one hand, and statements made by the Government on the same or similar issue on the other. The Captain then requests the four of us to answer four critical questions. Ignoring the contribution to the debate by such committed Guyanese as Janette Bulkan, Alfred Bhulai, Tarron Khemraj and Sasenarine Singh, Carl Greenidge, Lincoln Lewis, Charles Sohan and M. Ali, GHK Lall and others, Capt. Gouveia sees the four as “the ones who killed the project”.

Capt. Gouveia did not invite the Government of Guyana to explain its conflicting claims about the virtues of the project or challenge it for underplaying the hydrological, geotechnical and exchange risks associated with the project. One must remember that the Government has so far not tabled in the National Assembly any of the critical documents for the project or sought the Assembly’s approval. Presented by the Government were two peripheral pieces to meet the requirement of a foreign agency. Were it not for that demand, the Government would not have come to the National Assembly and the project could have gone the way of the Marriot and slid away quietly and successfully like the camoudie.

For the benefit of readers, we address the issues under five headings: debt, tariffs, subsidies, fuel and savings, and cost. We now address those issues, make a brief conclusion and raise some questions to Capt. Gouveia.
Continue reading Response to Gouveia

Money-Laundering not in recess

Amaila Update
Late on Friday evening, Mr. Winston Brassington, the Government’s point man in the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project (AFHP) announced that Sithe Global was exiting the project. Later that evening the President was reported as stating his Government would continue working to bring the Project to reality. Sithe would only say that it would issue a statement on Sunday August 11.

Meanwhile I had an initial but extensive engagement on Tuesday with Mr. Brassington, his two Amaila technical advisers and Mr. Kit Nascimento, PR agent of Guyana Power & Light Inc. on the scores of concerns I have had with the project. At the end of that session we agreed to meet again and in anticipation of that further meeting I sent a number of questions to Mr. Brassington. I had given an undertaking that I would reserve further statements on the project pending the meeting with Mr. Brassington and his team. Accordingly I am withholding any comments on the announcement of Sithe’s withdrawal from the project.

The National Assembly has gone into recess leaving further consideration of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill before the Special Select Committee of the National Assembly until at least early October. The logic it seems is that if the deficiencies in the Act could have waited a year or two what harm can a couple of months do? Perhaps illogically, the answer is “a lot”. Trading blame by the various sides in the National Assembly does nothing to assuage the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), of which Guyana is a member, about Guyana’s consistent non-compliance with its obligations to have the appropriate legislative framework in place, supported by a strong regulatory body to oversee relevant bodies and enforce the legislation.

That the government has failed massively on each of these measures has not restrained the language used by Dr. Ashni Singh, Minister of Finance to describe the conduct of his colleagues on the opposite side in the National Assembly. In March this year, he described the AFC as “shamelessly irresponsible” accusing it of holding the nation “hostage” to derive concessions on, in his view, the small matter of the Public Procurement Commission. Of course many Guyanese regard the establishment of the Commission not only as a constitutional imperative but as a critical governance and anti-corruption matter. Now, as members of the National Assembly shut shop and head for their summer vacation their decision is being described as “unconscionable”.
Continue reading Money-Laundering not in recess

Plain Talk: Interview with Dr. Hinds and Dr. Ng-A-Qui on the State of Black African Guyanese

Discussion with Dr. David Hinds and Dr. Norman Ng-A-Qui on the State of Black African Guyanese.

Opening Commentary on Democracy and the National Assembly, and the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project.

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