Taking account of the energy sectors in 190 countries ranging from developed to developing, the World Bank has ranked Guyana at an unflattering 165 position when it comes to reliable electricity supply.The World Bank reportThis is contained in the bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, which was recently released. While Guyana was ranked at 134 out of 190 countries when it comes to facilitating business, its score in the energy sector was much worse.On a scale of 0 to 100, Guyana was scored at 45.91 when it comes to getting electricity, while the cost as a percentage of income per capita was $421. On a scale of 0 to 8, when it comes to reliability of electricity supply and transparency of tariffs, Guyana scored 0.During a recent engagement at the Private Sector Commission’s (PSC’s) Annual General Meeting (AGM), United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Ann-Lynch had observed that war-torn countries like Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza received a better ranking when it comes to doing business than Guyana.But it gets worse, as, in fact, these countries received a better ranking when it comes to electricity supply as well. For instance, Iraq was rated at 61.73 out of 100 for getting electricity, though its cost per capita and reliability of supply were worse and similar, respectively, compared to Guyana.When it comes to the West Bank and Gaza, these countries were scored at 74.16 out of 100 in terms of electricity accessibility. They also received a 5 out of 8 in terms of reliability of supply and transparent rates, though the World Bank found their electricity inordinately expensive on a per capita basis.In the Caribbean, nearby Trinidad scored 84.30 out of a 100 in terms of access to electricity, while the cost per capita was just $199. When it comes to reliability of supply, the twin-island republic scored 6 out of 8.In Barbados, the island scored 65.12 out of 100 for access to electricity and 6 out of 8 in terms of reliability. The cost per capita, meanwhile, was $61.3. Jamaica also scored better than Guyana, not only in its ease of doing business, but also its electricity supply. The island scored 64.96 in its 0 to 100 score for electricity access, with a cost per capita of $203 and a reliability score of 5 out of a scale of 0 to 8.Meanwhile, the United States, with a population of over 300 million, received a score for its citizenry’s access to electricity of 82.15 out of 100. On the other hand, the individual cost per capita is $22.9.The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, which was initiated under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, could have been generating about 50 per cent more electricity than the entire GPL supply at the time in 2012. But the project was scrapped by the coalition administration who had controlled the National Assembly by a one-seat majority. Before assuming office, the APNU/AFC’s refusal to endorse AFHEP forced the main developer, Sithe Global, to walk away from the project. APNU and AFC claimed they were awaiting an evaluation from the IDB, which was in receipt of US$80 million from Norway that was specifically committed to AFHEP. But with no developer, the IDB declared an investigation was moot and the coalition Government had since ducked AFHEP, citing technical and financial concerns.EnergyThe unreliability of power is a major bugbear to not only ordinary citizens but also business and the manufacturing sector. It was identified by the US Ambassador during her address to the PSC as a particular problem for businesses.Over the past month, the Guyana Power and Light’s (GPL) service has been heavily criticised by ordinary citizens. This is because of regular power outages, maintenance work and announcements that there are issues with the interconnected system.GPL had subsequently announced that it will be looking to arrange power purchase agreements with a number of private firms that generate their own electricity. This includes seeking an agreement for power from the Hope Windfarm project.This is according to GPL’s Chief Executive Officer, Albert Gordon, who was at the time hosting a press conference last month. Gordon admitted that there are challenges with arranging the agreement with the Hope Windfarm project.It was announced subsequently that a power purchase agreement had been concluded with the Giftland Mall. The agreement is for the business to supply five megawatts of power. Meanwhile, it had also been announced that similar discussions were ongoing with Banks DIH.
Solar panels installed at the Administration and Humanities Building on UAA’s campus. (Photo by Samantha Davenport, Alaska Public Media)Governor Bill Walker’s Climate Action Leadership Team is trying to envision innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions in Alaska. For inspiration, task force members are looking to Connecticut, where a state-sponsored bank has helped loan millions of dollars for energy efficiency projects.Listen nowBert Hunter has a favorite project the Connecticut Green Bank has helped fund. You can almost hear hear his eyes sparkling through the phone as he describes it. An old textile mill is being transformed into shops and affordable housing, and on site is a built-in hydroelectric dream.“Literally, a river will run through it,” Hunter said with a chuckle.That river will generate power for the building through two turbines — lowering energy costs for the residents.Hunter is the Connecticut Green Bank’s Chief Investment Officer, and he admits this is unusual project for a conventional bank loan. He says those barriers to installing energy upgrades can exist for regular homeowners, too. Not just big ambitious commercial projects. That’s because in the eyes of a traditional bank, a loan for something like a kitchen remodel is typical.“But if you start talking about solar and energy efficiency … you know, most bankers don’t know how to approach that,” Hunter said.Hunter says the concept of renewable energy is still relatively new, which can make traditional banks cautious. But the Connecticut Green Bank has enough leverage to put those lenders at ease.Hunter explains the Connecticut Green Bank partners with credit unions and community banks, acting like a conduit. For residents who apply, that’s where the money comes from. If a homeowner does default on their loan, it’s the Green Bank that shares the burden of paying back those cost.This lowers the perceived risk for lenders, and it’s how Hunter says they can offer single digit interest rates for energy efficiency projects.In the six years it’s been around, the Connecticut Green Bank has more than doubled its initial investment of $70 million dollars, and states like Alaska are starting to take notice.“We’re talking about setting up an enterprise that is going to make money,” Chris Rose, who serves on Governor Walker’s climate action task force, said.Rose is a big fan of establishing a green bank here. It’s included in a draft policy, which is expected to be submitted to the governor next month.Rose thinks Alaskans could save a lot of money by making their homes more energy efficient.“In the past, the state spent over a half a billion dollars to do that very successfully. But we don’t have that grant money anymore,” Rose said.Rose says a system that operates like a business makes a lot of sense. You put money in and that money comes back in the form of interest.But Alaska has a huge budget deficit. So, where would that initial money come from?“I don’t think a green bank would be a huge lift,” Rose said. “I do think the issue of where the money is going to come from is a big question. A carbon tax is just one potential source of revenue.”Rose says to look at what other states are doing. At least seven have proposed carbon pricing legislation. Alaska should be thinking long term.Connecticut didn’t establish its green bank with a carbon tax. It transformed an existing energy program and collects a small fee on utility payments.However Alaska decides to go about it, Bert Hunter has some advice: get the state on board and start with a pot of money.“Alaska is no stranger to making these kinds of investments,” Hunter said.Hunter is talking about Alaska’s Permanent Fund Corporation. It invested close to $100 million in a leading financier of renewable energy this year.