THE government’s recent announcement that the future gas-to-shore power plant will be located at the Wales Estate, West Bank Demerara, has brought much excitement to Guyana. The prospect of cheaper, more reliable energy from natural gas has the ability to reduce energy costs for residents and businesses, reduce emissions from heavy oil and work together with renewable sources of electricity.
Guyana currently relies on imported heavy fuel oil to produce electricity. This is typically an inefficient, expensive and high-pollution power source, but it’s often the only fuel available for electricity production in small countries that don’t have energy resources of their own.
The natural gas found alongside Guyana’s offshore oil deposits could finally offer a new pathway for the country. The International Monetary Fund reports that switching to gas could significantly reduce basic living costs for Guyanese. A cheaper and more reliable fuel source like gas could be transformative for the local economy. One of the main concerns among businesses has long been high cost unreliable electricity. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo recently stated that the gas-to-shore project will “change the entire dynamic of electricity production and pricing, possibly more than halving the present price of 17 to 20 cents per kilowatt/hour.”
In addition to being a cheaper and more reliable alternative to heavy oil products, natural gas brings major environmental benefits. While natural gas is still a fossil fuel, the emissions it generates during electricity production are much lower than the emissions generated by using heavy oil as an energy source.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas produces about 35 percent less carbon dioxide to produce electricity than heavy fuel oil. Carbon dioxide pollution does not harm human health directly but is a major contributor to climate change. Switching to gas could substantially lower Guyana’s carbon emissions from power generation even while providing more energy to supply a growing economy.
Data from the United States Department of Energy suggest that for every 10,000 homes that are powered with natural gas instead of oil products, 1,200 tonnes of Nitrogen Oxides, 2,500 tonnes of Sulfur Dioxide, and 3,350 tonnes of particulates are saved on an annual emissions basis. Lower emissions translate to cleaner air.
International energy experts have stated that a gas- to- power project in Guyana is crucial for the country to break its dependence on imported fuel oil. With a gas-to-power plant, Guyana would no longer have to buy fuel on the international market at high cost and could instead rely on its own deposits of gas.
Gas also sets Guyana up for success for a cleaner energy future. President Irfaan Ali pledged earlier this year to stimulate the economy by bringing down the costs of energy in Guyana by as much as 50 percent, through a mix of gas and renewables.
Gas plants can also serve as an ideal complement to renewables because they can start up within minutes instead of hours, quickly providing a backup source of reliable and consistent energy when the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing. The plants can then easily and efficiently power back down once renewable sources are available again. Natural gas is used extensively across the U.S. and Europe together with wind and solar projects. With its compatibility with renewables and lower overall emission level, gas can also be compatible with Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.
With a location for the gas-to-power plant in place, the benefits of cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable energy are finally within sight.
The government hopes that the gas-to-power plant will be up and running as early as the end of 2023. The sooner that cleaner, cheaper energy is available from local sources, the better.