SOLAR energy forms an integral part of any country’s plan in addressing alternative energy. Where Guyana is pursuing a Green Economy, as a matter of its primary developmental thrust, whenever a business or individual switches to this form of energy, such act takes the country closer to the goal. Alternative energy, such as solar power, plays a significant role in protecting the environment. This is so given that it replaces the consumption of fossil fuel which gives off emissions that have been scientifically proven to be harmful to the environment. As the consumption of fossil is reduced, the air we breathe becomes healthier and will help in enhancing the health of citizens and nations. According to the watchdog group, Union of Concerned Scientists in its 2011 Report (which was revised in November 2014), Guyana is among the 20 per cent “rest of the world” countries where each’s share of total carbon dioxide emission comes from energy consumption.
The top emitters are China at 27 per cent, United States 17 per cent, Russia five per cent, India five per cent and Japan four per cent. Specifically to Guyana, according to the World Resources Institute, as at December 31, 2012, our greenhouse gas emissions, excluding land-use change and forestry, was 3.60. When land-use change and forestry are added to the equation, however, the figure is closer to 7.64. As a signatory to the United Nations Climate Agreement comes the responsibility of helping meet the international timetable of goals for reducing emissions.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) also has its own Energy Thrust, which Guyana has helped shape and has a responsibility to bring to fruition. Government, in last year’s National Budget, committed to granting concessions to those desirous of benefitting from alternative-energy technology. This opportunity not only helps in harnessing the natural energy at our disposal, but also creates a more reliable source of energy than presently obtains. Further, such a pursuit would realise reduction of overhead expenses over time, new opportunities for employment and economic opportunities, and Guyana elevating its image as a credible nation among member-states, regional and extra-regional. The government has set itself the lofty but not unachievable goal that by 2025, the country will achieve renewable energy and energy-efficiency status. With eight years remaining to achieve this goal, and in the midst of evident public delight with reported fossil fuel finds, such aspiration may not be taken lightly, which may require a re-focusing of interests and energies. While the government has targeted special attention areas to be retrofitted, where businesses and private citizens are following suit, they are deserving of commendation, even as all efforts must be made to encourage others.
We have seen in the past the Nand Persaud Group of Companies going fully solar when it commissioned a $110M system at its Tain, Corentyne call centre. The Demerara Bank Limited’s Camp Street headquarters was also fully converted. In 2016, a team from Toronto, Canada met with ministers of the government, seeking to explore opportunities to establish a solar farm here, with the aim of working in tandem with the Guyana Power and Light to augment our electricity supply. Though the present status of this engagement has not been made public, when citizens continue to suffer from daily outages, realisation of such a project would be looked forward to with much anticipation. The government has constructed Guyana’s first solar farm at Mabaruma in the North West District. Four acres of land had been allocated for this ambitious 400-megawatt project. When it becomes operational, it would afford an additional 17 hours of electricity to the 3,000 residents.
The Demerara Bank Limited, in addition to going ‘green’, is providing support for others to do likewise. Though in our society, where there can be little dispute, habits are hard to change and the full appreciation of alternative energy is yet to be grappled with, this bank is helping the process of changing behaviour by making funding available at reasonable cost. At an eight per cent interest rate, the impetus is there to act. Retrofitting homes and other buildings creates new types of jobs and other economic opportunities, direct and indirect. For home owners, opportunities are presented to opt for going fully solar or creating a hybrid system. The possibilities for using alternative energy are limitless, and Guyanese are being encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities.