…US$14M to be released for alternative projectsBy Samuel SukhnandanThe innovative forest conservation for money Norway-Guyana deal is “well and alive”, but will be redirected to a number of different viable projects, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told the National Assembly on Thursday while making his contributions to the 2018 National Budget debate.Harmon announced that the Kingdom of Norway has agreed to release US$14 million for a Sustainable Land Development and Management Project. In additionMinister of State, Joseph Harmonto that, some US$17 million will be released for several Information and Communications Technology (ICT) projects, while funding for the Amerindian Fund and Amerindian Land Titling project is ongoing.“Financial delivery on projects added between May 2015 and 2017 has improved to 35 per cent in just half term and this Government expects to reach more than 60 per cent delivery by the end of 2018,” Harmon told the National Assembly while providing an update on the facility. According to him, Norway has also extended the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) Trustee Account that ended in December 2016 to December 2021. He said 285 grants and 120 loans have been approved under the Micro and Small Enterprise Project as against the previous two-year figures.The release of these funds forms part of the US$80 million, which was earmarked for the Amaila Falls Hydro Project. However, the Government has made its intention known that it does not wish to proceed with it. Instead, the funds will now be channelled to a number of different ‘clean energy’ initiatives.Harmon reminded that these considerations emanated from a December meeting in Paris, among delegations from Norway and Guyana and representatives from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It was at that meeting that Guyana’s position was reiterated; that it cannot support the Amaila project.He noted that this was mainly on account of a number of unresolved issues regarding the viability of the venture and concerns on the least cost of the project, which was started under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government. The Government has said too that it did not intent to attract any debt.When the new Government took office in 2015, it decided to review the feasibility of proceeding with the project with the intention of creating a Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) and a Renewable Energy Transition Roadmap, to add to the joint concept of the Guyana-Norway concept.“Mr Speaker, the importance of the Norway Agreement to the advancement of Guyana’s green agenda cannot be overemphasised and as a result, I have, as recently as yesterday (December 6, 2017), sent a letter to the Honourable Minister of the Environment of the Kingdom of Norway, Mr Vidar Helgesen requesting his consideration for a meeting of Environment Ministers of Guyana and Norway,” he told the House.The State Minister noted that the aim of the meeting was to further discuss how the partnership between the two countries could continue to yield benefits. He noted that Guyana has already advanced work on all aspects of the joint concept notes, which include the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (EU-FLEGT).HydropowerIn addressing the issue of hydropower, Harmon said that it would form part of Guyana’s renewable energy mix which includes solar, wind, biomass, and bagasse. He said the Government also remained committed to delivering close to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025.The Minister said based on the request from Norway, it was agreed that an independent assessment be conducted on the Amaila Falls Hydro Electricity Project by the firm Norconsult. The report of that assessment produced evidence that the configuration of the project was not fit.“The evidence from the Norconsult Report indicates the reason why we need an energy mix. Amaila is no silver bullet. The focus is hydropower generation. Hence, the consideration of the options for hydropower and there are equally competitive alternative hydropower solutions.”The Minister also stated that Norway would give support to the Guyana Power Light (GPL) for its efforts to improve energy efficiency, as this overall is a low-carbon initiative and could get GPL to qualify for monies from the GRIF. The GRIF goes back to an agreement signed in November 2009, in which Norway agreed to provide Guyana with up to US$250 million by 2015, in performance-based payments for avoided deforestation in support of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).The Government has been pursuing a national energy policy and refining the Renewable Energy Transition Roadmap. “In the meantime, it makes sense to use our natural resource – natural gas, coming on stream than to flare it; natural gas that uses modern efficient plants emits 50-60 per cent less carbon into the atmosphere than other fossil fuels such as oil. So, hydropower generation is alive and we are committed to delivering such solution to the nation,” Harmon added.Since the agreement was signed, Guyana has earned US$190 million. Some US$69.8 million had been transferred to the GRIF while US$80 million was transferred to the IDB for the Amaila project.Norway had strongly supported the Amaila project, which was the flagship project of the previous PPP/C Administration’s LCDS and was envisioned to deliver a steady source of affordable, reliable, clean and renewable energy. The project was supposed to eliminate at least 92 per cent of Guyana’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and it was said that this would likely make Guyana the world’s number one user of renewable energy by 2017.