KINGSTON - Six thousand homes across 25 hinterland communities in Guyana will receive solar home systems following the launch of the Sustainable Business Models for Rural Electrification and Energy Access in Guyana Project by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.

The project, which is being spearheaded by MPI’s Hinterland Electrification Unit (HEU), was launched today, March 14, 2016. The project is in collaboration with the not-for-profit company, CARIBSAVE, and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group.

During the launch at Cara Lodge, Minister within the Ministry, Annette Ferguson, deemed the event a significant one. She noted that, in Guyana, over 80 percent of hinterland communities have no access to electricity. In comparison, the coastlands boast a nearly 100 percent electrification rate, she said.

Minister Ferguson stressed that the glaring disparity between the electrification rates must be rectified. Therefore, the Government of Guyana allocated $110M in the 2016 National Budget to close the electrification rate gap that exists between urban areas and the hinterland, she said.

“The unbalance is glaring. It is no secret that the hinterland remains the reserve of Guyana’s wealth; therefore, if we can create the infrastructure that will improve energy availability for rural communities, the result will be a win-win for everyone…rural electrification improves social, environmental and economic parameters of rural livelihood,” Minister Ferguson stressed.

She further said that the surge in renewable energy sources will lead to an overall positive impact on the environment. “Energy is so critical for our survivability; its inaccessibility should be treated as a human rights issue,” she added.

Minister Ferguson further said that the project will bring drastic improvement to people’s lives and communities through the improvements of public infrastructure, living conditions and health and education facilities; through the provision of income generating opportunities; and through the building of capacity for improved energy services.

Meanwhile, according to CARIBSAVE Caribbean Regional Director, Judi Clarke, Guyana is the newest home of CARIBSAVE thanks to its new Georgetown location. Over the years, the company has focussed on a number of areas, including climate change; risk and resilience; biodiversity, ecosystems and marine conservation; and low carbon development and renewable energy.

“Energy demands are growing worldwide yet approximately 1.5 billion have no access to electricity…we are therefore very excited to embark upon this project,” she said.

The key objective of the project is the increase sustainable, affordable, and reliable access to renewable energy technologies to rural communities in regions 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9 while ultimately improving the quality of lives for those living in the hinterland regions. The project is also an integral part of Guyana’s broader Sustainable Energy Programme.

The project will also focus on the development of business models for solar photovoltaic systems which will be installed in community buildings in the 25 communities. Additionally, community members and other energy sector agencies will be trained in technical, operational, social and environmental aspects of the project.

MIF has contributed US$1.3M to the project; the project’s total amount is US$1.7M and its financing period will cover from 2016 to 2019. Currently, the 25 villages are being finalised and will be chosen shortly.