President David Granger: Thank you, please be seated. Thank you for your brief introduction. Dr. Yesu Persaud, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Demerara Bank; Mr. Pravinchandra Dave (climate change expert); Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Mr. Sherod Duncan, Deputy Mayor of the City of Georgetown; Director, Mr. Garfield Wiltshire; distinguished guests; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen:
I’m very happy to be here again this evening, exactly one year after I was invited to participate in the commissioning of this building on 21st November, as Mr. Dave pointed out, and coming back here is of course a fulfilment for the Bank; at least a fulfilment of the pledge that they made to go ‘green’.
So it is a happy occasion for me to be here and I am proud, and I must congratulate the Bank not only on taking up the challenge, but on demonstrating leadership to other corporations in Guyana. We asked last year November that the Bank go ‘green’ and the Bank has gone ‘green’. And I’m very proud and I’m sure the directors too are very proud, but my own experience has led me to this position; to this situation; to this realisation.
I grew up on the Corentyne and I have a clear recollection that the rice millers, at least the rich ones – that was a long time ago when I was young of course – had wind chargers and they all were able to generate electricity from the wind, which was when I was young; sixty-five years ago.
My watch is a solar watch. When I was in the army we would go on patrols and if the battery [died] we would open a solar panel and we charged the battery; this is you know, forty years ago. We have a farm at the Garden of Eden and it was the largest pig farm and the pigs consumed a lot and [excreted] a lot of waste and we were able to generate; we didn’t have to supply the farm with cooking gas the pigs did that for us and that was, again, some time ago.
We have in this country, two hydro sites at Tumatumari and I remember when they were both established in 1967, we use to boast that we didn’t have to turn off the light because we had light day and night and we had another hydro plant at Moco-Moco in the Rupununi, but now of course you can drive in the Moco-Moco and you drive over the mangoes. So why don’t you pick-up the mangoes? Even the pigs don’t eat the mangoes. They can’t use the mangoes – too much – because they don’t have the power to make the mangoes into mango juice and mango slices; so they buy the juice from Brazil.
So we are really sitting on our hands Mr. Dave and your Prime Minister, Mr. Modi, whom I had the honour of meeting last September, is correct that we have resources which we have not exploited. I had the benefit also of being in California about twenty years ago at an urban renewal site and their landfill had some huge PVC pipes and they were producing methane and some other gas and selling the electricity.
So the things you’re talking about are all old technology. I’m sure that I wouldn’t make any comments or Hamilton Green jokes like you, but I’m sure Mr. Green would be familiar with that technology. [Laughter.] So whether we’re talking about solar; whether we’re talking about wind; whether we are talking about hydro; whether we are talking about pig manure and biogas; whether we are talking about landfill – all of this is ‘old hat’ and Guyana, really, is not making use of the technology that is already available.
This evening we are here to celebrate the fact that the Demerara Bank here at Camp Street is making use of that technology. Our clean energy revolution is gaining momentum and I’m happy that the Demerara Bank, as a private company, is taking the lead in bringing the message of renewable energy to the rest of the corporate community.
The leadership shown by private companies such as the Bank, will serve as a beacon to encourage other private companies to adapt renewable energy generation and I think the message is catching on. Renewable energy is the wave of the future and Guyana intends to be at the crest of that wave.
I have spoken of Guyana as a ‘green’ state. We’re not there yet, but we’re working towards it. I signed the Paris Agreement at the United Nations in April of this year and I promised that Guyana will move closer towards full renewable energy by 2025. Unfortunately, I was misquoted by somebody who is probably visually challenged, but this is what I said, I don’t know what he thought I said, I said, “Guyana will move closer towards full renewable energy by the year 2025” and we will honour that commitment.
I have just returned from the 22nd Meeting of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco; and as you know Morocco is one of the leading countries in the world for the generation of solar energy. In fact they created a huge village for the conference venue – I call it a tent village, but it is entirely powered by solar energy.
The countries of the Caribbean also are moving forward with energy use and some of them used the opportunity well. They are far ahead of Guyana; most of them are far ahead of Guyana; so we’re playing catch up. Some of them, of course, have the benefit of geothermal energy so we don’t have that benefit and we don’t have the benefit of hurricanes either or earthquakes. But we can use much more efficiently those energy sources that we have. Corporations around the world are converting to cost-saving renewable energy technologies and we must not be left behind.
Guyana has advantages in the sector, perhaps more advantages than the Caribbean countries in terms of solar power. We have the capability of generating solar power on an industrial scale because of the level of radiation particularly in our Savannah region – our Rupununi, which is the size of Costa Rica and of course the Intermediate Savannahs and I like, Mr. Dave, idea that we could make sure that in the future the roofs of most of our buildings would themselves be solar panels will generate electricity.
Wind power – as I said, I was familiar with wind-power over sixty-five years ago and we will be moving towards that direction. Glad to see Dr. Sharma in the audience because he has done a lot of work here and I think some of that work needs to be brought to light Dr. Sharma because we need your knowledge now and your experience.
Hydro power – again we have two dead projects at Tumatumari and Moco-Moco; these could be brought to life… I take the point that you made about Amaila Falls (it’s a tough sell) and I mentioned biomass and we are already generating some power from bagasse and as I said, one of the solutions is to ensure that we trap the gas being generated there and we use it for electrical generation.
So we have the potential and we could become a leader in the Caribbean in our sub-region in terms of generating renewable energy. We are developing a blueprint and as you know on the 1st October we created a Department of the Environment and we are trying to bring together all of the agencies and authorities concerned with the environment; not just the matter of the Low Carbon Development Strategy, we are bringing together the Protected Areas; we are bringing together the Environmental Protection Agency; the Wildlife Protection Agency; Office of Climate Change and we’re collaborating with the Guyana Forestry Commission; the Guyana Energy Agency and other agencies so that we can develop a holistic approach as a ‘green’ state.
You know a few centuries ago, people believed that the earth was flat and I think in some countries, people still believe that climate change is a myth. We have the potential and I believe that in the short and middle term led by corporations such as DBL we will be able to move more aggressively towards clean energy use. We have already started very slowly in the Government by asking that all of our Government buildings; police stations, our ministries, our hospitals, our schools and university start to use clean energy sources. It will take time, but we are moving quickly.
I hope guided by the Guyana Energy Agency, we will move much more quickly in 2017 than we were able to move in 2016. We are confident that our ‘green’ state will be able to adapt policies, which will produce cheaper forms of energy allowing for us to save foreign exchange. It will allow us to provide advantages to our manufacturing sector.
I pointed out a simple matter in the Rupununi where you have an over production of mangoes in one community, but they can’t process those mangoes because they don’t have the power and the Rupununi, of course, has got more sunlight hours per day than any other part of the country. We can save money too by phasing out the use of imported fossil fuels and even though Guyana is on the brink of becoming a petroleum producing country; I hope that we adapt the status of becoming a petroleum exporting country and we can go ‘green’ and use the export funds for other purposes like building highways and bridges.
We will promote a clean environment so that our children could grow up understanding the importance of protection of our environment and again we could exploit our high radiation levels of sunlight; wind energy and our vast lots of biomass and, of course, of hydropower potential. We have over a hundred sites in this country from which we could generate hydropower and if you go to Iwokrama and you sat on the bank of that river, apart from the Black Caiman which will come to find out if you are trying to put your toes in the water, you will see the rate at which the Essequibo River; our great Essequibo River is moving and as long as the river is moving you will get power from it.
Demerara Bank has shown that it has been capable of making the transition to clean energy and I believe that you will be getting more interest on your savings because you will be saving from electricity. We are sure too that with the demand for energy efficient technologies and products, you will be able to generate new opportunities for our young people who will develop technical skills and create employment opportunities in the private sector.
Demerara Bank, we congratulate you. We thank you for taking this initiative. I would like to express the appreciation of the Government of Guyana to the chairman, directors and staff of the Bank for their foresight in making this bold decision and I urge the other members of the private sector to follow this example and to continue to do the work to make Guyana a ‘green’ state.
Thank you and congratulations.