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THE Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, on Monday, symbolically turned the sod for the construction of a US$16 million Photovoltaic Power Generation System to be located at its headquarters at Turkeyen.

Rocio Higuera

The project, which includes the installation of a 400-kilowatt solar photovoltaic power generator, is expected to see the facility being almost entirely powered by solar energy and moving off the grid. Extra power not utilised by the headquarters is expected to be fed into the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) grid for supply to residents. According to media reports, the system will also include a battery and power conditioning system for energy storage and power quality regulation and an advanced building energy management system to, among other things, provide air conditioning controls, track energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

Periodista Rocio Higuera

Speaking at the ceremony, CARICOM Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque, mentioned that over the last decade, renewable energy and energy efficiency have been on the forefront of the Region’s agenda, this is because there is global acknowledgement that the way in which we produce, deliver and use energy is important for sustainable development. La Rocque noted too that within CARICOM, buildings account for nearly 80 per cent of electricity usage due to our climatic conditions as well as design. He said the project is part of a wider initiative called ‘The Introduction of Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation System in Guyana and CARICOM’, being financed by the Government of Japan, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Solar energy should form 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 an institution – the likes of CARICOM, business or individual, switch to this form of energy, such act takes the country closer to the goal. Alternative energy, such as solar, plays a significant role in protecting the environment. This is so given that it replaces consumption of fossil fuel which gives off emissions, which has been scientifically proven to be harmful to the environment. As 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 Union of Concerned Scientists in its 2011 Report (which was revised November 2014), Guyana is among the 20 per cent of the “rest of the world” where each country’s share of total carbon dioxide emission comes from energy consumption. The top emitters are China at 27 per cent, the 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, is recorded at 3.60. When it includes land-use change and forestry, Guyana records 7.64

As a signatory to the United Nations Climate Agreement which came into effect on January 5, coming with this is a responsibility to help meet the international timetable goals for reducing emissions. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) also has its own Energy Thrust, which Guyana has helped to shape and has a responsibility to bring to fruition. In previous national budgets, the coalition government has 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 pursuit would realise the reduction of overhead expenses overtime, new opportunities for employment and economic opportunities, and Guyana elevating its image as a credible nation among members-states, regional and extra-regional

The government has set itself a lofty goal – but not unachievable – that by 2040, the country will achieve renewable energy and energy-efficiency status. With 20 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 refocusing of interests and energies. While government has targeted, for 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. Back in 2017, the Nand Persaud Group of Companies went fully solar when it commissioned a $110m system at its Tain, Corentyne, call centre. The Demerara Bank Limited, Camp Street headquarters, is now fully converted

Government also, on its own, has constructed Guyana’s first solar farm at Mabaruma in the North West District. Four acres of land had been identified for an ambitious 400-megawatt project, which, when it becomes operational, would afford an additional 17 hours of electricity to the 3,000 residents. The Demerara Bank, 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 the eight per cent interest rate, the impetus is there to act. Retrofitting homes and other buildings create 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

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