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33 GEA employees on the breadline

- as a result of Opposition’s non-approval of GEA’s budgetary subvention

 

THE combined Parliamentary Opposition, on Tuesday April 15, 2014, did not approve the budget allocations for Office of the President Administrative Services line item. The said line includes the budget allocation for the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) and other subvention Agencies. The non-approved allocation for GEA was for G$73.5 million as subsidies/contribution from Central Government. An additional G$10 million which was requested for capital expenditure towards the cost of extending the building to create additional office space for GEA’s employees, was included in the Office of the President’s Capital allocation which was also not approved.

 

GEA’s recurrent budgeted expenditure for 2014 is 119.101 million dollars (excluding the 10 million capital expenditure for the extension of the current Office space). Of the aforementioned amount, the Agency only needed G$73.5 million as the remaining G$44.546 will be generated from revenue received for Agency and licensing fees. Of the G$119.101 million budgeted expenditure of the Agency, G$76.264 million is allocated to employment cost. Hence, the G$73.5 million dollars subvention that was requested was towards employment cost for 33 employees.

 

This non-approval by the Opposition has tremendous ramifications. With no finances to pay salaries the future of the staff is bleak and uncertain; many have children, and other dependents who rely on them for financial support. Additionally, they have mortgage, rent, water and electricity bills, loan repayment and financial obligations to Ministry of Housing and other Banking institutions. All of this pales in comparison to the reality that without their salaries individuals will not be able to provide food which is needed for basic survival.

 

Upon hearing of this unfortunate turn of events the atmosphere of the Agency became a solemn one. Reactions varied from outright disbelief to tears of frustration and uncertainty. ..“I am a single parent with three children, I recently acquired a piece of land from the Ministry of Housing…and I have the other half left to pay them, how am I going to provide for them and pay Housing?” said one employee. While yet another dismally proclaimed that “I am the sole bread winner of my home, plus I recently took a loan to further my studies….how am I going to survive without a salary? Jobs are hard to get…I really think that the Opposition should rethink their decision….this has put people’s lives in severe jeopardy.”

 

The preceding were the sentiments echoed, in varying forms, among staff throughout the organisation. Though expressed in different ways, the core theme expressed by the staff was “How am I going to survive and meet my different financial obligations?”

 

Mandated under the provisions of the Guyana Energy Agency Act 1997, with subsequent amendments in 2004 and 2005, and the Petroleum and Petroleum Products Regulations 2004; the Agency carries out many core functions that lend significantly to the country’s development.

 

Some of the core functions of the Agency under the preceding are: to advise and to make recommendations to the Minister regarding any measures necessary to secure the efficient management of energy and the source of energy in the public interest and to develop and encourage the development and utilisation of sources of energy other than sources presently in use; to carry out research into all sources of energy including those sources presently used in Guyana for the generation of energy, and securing more efficient utilisation of energy and sources of energy; to monitor the performance of the energy sector in Guyana, including the production, importation, distribution and utilisation of petroleum and petroleum products; to disseminate information relating to energy management, including energy conservation and the development and utilisation of alternative sources of energy; to grant and issue licences relating to petroleum and petroleum products, including import, wholesale, importing wholesale, retail, bulk transportation carrier, storage and consumer installation licences among others.

 

Liscensing plays a critical role in helping to combat fuel smuggling which has a negative effect on revenue collection from petroleum importation. In fact, because of poor sales of diesel and gasoline compared to usage, numerous reports of fuel smuggling, coupled with local companies complaining of unfair competition with fuel smugglers it was necessary for some form of intervention to be employed to combat these problems. The 2004 amendment to the Guyana Energy Agency Act 1997 was therefore implemented to provide specifically for licensing of the different classes of fuel dealers and for the marking of all legitimately imported fuel in an effort to combat the aforementioned issues.

 

The following activities will be affected:
** In 2013, GEA facilitated the importation of 95 shipments of fuel from Venezuela and Trinidad. The Agency intended to continue to consolidate nominations, interact with the refineries, and work towards ensuring the timely delivery and availability of imported fuels in 2014. Options for sourcing extra-regional supplies were also intended to be explored due to the supply shortfalls experienced in the previous year.

** Hydropower monitoring and oversight were to be continued along with exploration of the options for run-of-the-river micro hydropower potential. A feasibility study was also to be conducted on the Kumu Falls in Region 9 to establish the hydropower potential and costs for development.

** GEA planned to continue to encourage the use of renewable energy where suitable and to explore financing options for a 10kW Grid Feed-in system and a 20kW biomass-based power generator at suitable locations. A review of the grid feed-in mechanisms was also planned to determine applicability to Guyana.

** Continue to review, assess and monitor wind speeds to identify promising sites for wind energy applications.

** Energy efficient cook stoves and bio-digesters installed in 2012 and 2013 were to be reviewed to determine the level of acceptance by the various communities. The Agency also intended to work with communities to determine whether improvements would be required and steps needed to encourage greater utilisation across the country. Building on work completed in 2013 with support from The Energy Research Institute (TERI) of India, other energy efficient wood stoves were to be piloted in 2014 and the use of bio-digesters encouraged where suitable.

** Having completed 40 energy assessments in the last two years and based on the estimation that simple lighting change-out costing about G$272,000 per school can result in energy savings of over G$500,000 annually; GEA intended to continue its energy assessments of another 20 buildings in 2014, this time with a focus on schools.

** With support from the Ministry of Public Works, 920 defective photosensors on street lights were replaced as part of GEA’s efforts to conserve energy by ensuring street lights are turned off during daylight hours. The efforts in 2013 translated into annual energy savings of about G$56 million. As part of a demonstration project in 2014, GEA intended to install 40 LED street lamps to replace existing 250Watt high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps with 60 Watt LED lamps. This would have resulted in estimated annual savings of about G$1.7 million.

** Continuous reviews of the licensing process were to be conducted to ensure that all sites were properly inspected and licensed to ensure full compliance with the legislation.

** Continue information dissemination efforts through the use of promotional spots, sensitisation ads in the media, brochures (three of which were to be printed in 2014), presentations, seminars and workshops so as to educate consumers on the use of energy and opportunities for energy conservation. These efforts were also planned to target commercial entities, industry and secondary school students.

 

Energy is integral to a country’s economic growth and development. It supports diverse economic activities such as transportation, agriculture and manufacturing, all of which undoubtedly are key sectors of development. Global warming, increasing prices for fossil fuels, environmental concerns, energy supply constraints, low carbon growth trajectories and sustainable development initiatives provide the impetus and importance for energy efficiency and to develop and encourage the development and utilisation of sources of energy other than sources presently in use.

 

The Agency had planned several activities for 2014 toward ensuring the vision of providing reliable energy that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, for all in Guyana.

 

As the body mandated to carry out all of the above functions the Guyana Energy Agency plays a significant role in the development of Guyana through various activities such as the importation and sale of petroleum and petroleum related products, regulation of the liscencing process, providing advice, give recommendation and give approval on energy related matters. Additionally, through school presentations, dissemination of information, research and implementation of various energy efficient activities and initiatives, the Agency has made a significantly positive impact on the Nation’s economy and sustainable energy initiatives.

 

The non-approval of the Agency’s subvention request has therefore lent a tremendous blow not only to the staff of GEA but also to Guyana and Guyanese as a whole. (The above statement was issued yesterday by the GEA)

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