Evaluation of Amaila Falls Hydro Project still ongoing – PM

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
An artist’s impression of the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project dam

Evaluation of the four companies that want to be prequalified for the 165-megawatt (MW) Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is still ongoing, according to Prime Minister Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips.

Back in December, four companies – Rialma S.A. (Grupo Rialma) from Brazil; China International Water & Elec. Corp; Lindsayca CH4 Guyana Inc., and a group made up of OEC, GE Vernova and Worley – had submitted tenders to be prequalified for the Amaila Falls Hydro Project.

The government has since been evaluating the proposals received. PM Phillips, whose office is the procuring agency for this project, told Inews on Wednesday that this process is still ongoing.

“We’re still doing the evaluation of the tenders that we received…[This process would last for] maybe another two to three weeks or so, because it’s a complex project. A hydropower project is a complex project, so they have to do the evaluation properly. But as soon as that part it finished, we will make an announcement,” the Prime Minister has said.

Back in October 2023, the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the construction of the Amaila Falls Hydro Project under a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model was launched. According to published documents from the Prime Minister’s Office, the project would integrate and expand Guyana Power and Light’s national grid capacity to include Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice).

The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project

Companies were asked to submit one proposal based on a BOOT model, which includes the construction of a hydro dam, transmission lines from Amaila to Linden, plus sub-stations at the Amalia site as well as upgrades and completion of roads and bridges to the site. According to documents, the hydro project may be re-engineered to take account of changes in turbine technology, thus allowing more than 165MW to be generated and transmitted.

Prime Minister Mark Phillips

It was further noted that the RFP will be conducted in three stages: Stage 1: Pre-qualification of parties capable of undertaking each of the above (hydro and transmission lines/ substations. Pre- qualification would be conducted on a rolling basis, following which prequalified candidates would be allowed access to the data room.

Stage 2: Prequalified parties would be asked to provide feedback on the preliminary project structure and project documents. This response would be used to revise the initial project structure and project documents to issue the final RFP by January 31, 2024.

Stage 3: Formal RFP submissions based on the final project structure and contractual documents – due 45 days after issuance of the final project.

On the cards since 2011

The AFHP – a brainchild of the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, has been on the cards since 2011. However, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) Opposition parties, having a one-seat majority in 2014, barred the project from becoming a reality.

The PPP/C had outlined the resuscitation of the project in its 2020 Election Manifesto. Fast forward to 2021, the Cabinet granted a no-objection for the Prime Minister’s Office to engage the China Railway Group Limited to construct the hydro project. However, those discussions ended in a deadlock when the company wanted to change the model.

According to reports, the company was unable to secure the necessary financing for the BOOT model, thus it requested to change the contract to an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) model.

At the time, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo made it clear that the Government was not keen on the EPC option since the BOOT model would allow the Administration to assume low risk.

Mounting interest

Only last October, Jagdeo indicated that there has been mounting interest in the Amaila Falls project from firms in the Region as well as around the world, including in Europe and Asia.

“Up to [September], we’ve had another interest from a Brazilian company. We’ve had a company from Austria [and] several from Korea, so now I think there is a large number of people approaching us, and the best way to do this is through a public process – a bid process,” Jagdeo had stated.

Meanwhile, the Vice President had disclosed in July that at least two proposals were received from companies in Brazil to do the hydro project. He had also noted that companies out of the United States (US) have similarly submitted proposals to take over the initiative.

During a visit to the US in December 2022, President Dr Irfaan Ali said, he had told Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and her team that the Amaila Falls project is open to US investors.

Back in October 2022, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Mark Berman, had disclosed that the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) had also held discussions with the Guyana Government on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project.

The 165-megawatt AFHP was the flagship initiative of the Bharrat Jagdeo-crafted Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). But the project failed to take off despite having a developer in US-based Sithe Global, which was backed by investment major The Blackstone Inc.

In August 2013, Sithe Global announced that it was pulling out of the project, which it said was too large to continue without national consensus, and had cited the lack of consensus in Parliament. At the time, the then APNU and AFC Opposition parties had both expressed concerns about the project, and had voted down key pieces of legislation which consequently halted the project.

Then during its term in office, from 2015 to 2020, the APNU/AFC coalition Administration again shelved the project.

The Amaila Falls project plays an important role in the Government’s plan to create an energy mix to address the increase in electricity demand while phasing out dependency on fossil fuels that are contributing to global climate change.