Renewables conference acknowledges hydro

Delegates to a global conference on renewable energy acknowledged the importance of hydropower in the world’s mix of renewable energy resources. About 6,000 delegates and more than 100 country delegations took part in the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) March 4-6. While much attention focused on newer renewables technologies, Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates predicted conventional emissions-free technologies — hydro and nuclear generation — would account for almost half of the clean power additions by 2030. Liv Monica Stubholt, Norway’s deputy minister of Petroleum and Energy, said Norway is pushing innovative approaches to energy, backed by its expertise in hydropower. Portuguese Economy Minister Manuel Pinho said Portugal plans to increase its hydro by 50 percent in five to seven years, from its current 4,800 mw. The International Hydropower Association’s Sustainability Assessment Protocol was the focus of a satellite event. The session recruited supporters to promote the protocol as a global standard to guide hydro sector activities.

EU emissions cap to boost renewables, hydro

European Union (EU) leaders pledged March 14 to endorse laws within 12 months to combat climate change but promised to soften the blow for heavy industries. The 27 leaders pledged to enact laws by March 2009 to meet goals of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and increasing the share of wind, solar, hydroelectric, and wave power, and biofuels in their energy mix. A two-day summit in Brussels set a tight timetable for adopting mechanisms to curb greenhouse gas emissions and promote green energy but stressed they must be affordable at a time of economic downturn. Concerns about slower growth and financial instability prompted leaders to add the phrase “so as to avoid excessive costs for member states” to the statement. The leaders stressed the need to ensure that the high cost of carbon trading should not drive energy intensive industries out of Europe or out of business.

DRC minister endorses 1,424-mw Inga 2 rehab

The prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) endorsed a proposal by MagEnergy Inc. to perform Phase 2 rehabilitation of the 1,424-mw Inga 2 hydro project on the Congo River. MagEnergy, a unit of Canadian magnesium producer MagIndustries Corp., has been performing Phase 1 rehab, including emergency repairs to several turbines. MagEnergy expects to complete that work by June. It continues to work toward ratification of its US$110 million Phase 2 program to rehabilitate another four turbines at eight-unit Inga 2 over five years. The company said it received an expression of support for Phase 2 in a February letter from DRC Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga. MagEnergy is leading refurbishment of Inga 2 with Industrial Development Corp. of South Africa. The DRC recently said it expects to seek bids for additional rehabilitation of Inga 2 and 350-mw Inga 1. The five-nation Western Power Corridor Co. (Pty) Ltd. (Westcor) also launched development of the 4,300-mw Inga 3 project with a solicitation for advisers, consultants, and operational staff.

Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia to build five hydros

Brazil Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao says Brazil plans to build five hydroelectric projects totaling 10,000 mw with neighbors Argentina and Bolivia. Lobao said three hydro projects are under consideration with Argentina and two with Bolivia. He said the total investment of 30 billion reais (US$17.5 billion) is to be divided among the three countries. Lobao said energy and environment ministers would define terms and locations where the projects would be built. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner agreed in February to accelerate development of the 1,800-mw Garabi hydro project on their common border, the Uruguai River.

Malaysia to develop corridor including hydro

Malaysia Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) covering 70,000 square kilometers of Sarawak State including several major hydropower projects. The prime minister also witnessed the signing of 13 memoranda of understanding for investment projects. At the core of the renewable energy corridor is 20,000 mw of potential hydropower, as well as coal and natural gas resources. Sarawak State, on Borneo Island, already includes the 2,400-mw Bakun hydro project, which is under construction. The Sarawak corridor strategy includes development of currently feasible hydropower projects, including 900-mw Murum, 150-mw Limbang, 1,000-mw Barang, and 1,000-mw Baleh.

Russia clears way for carbon emissions trading

Russia announced that developers now may submit applications to sell carbon emission reduction credits to Western countries. Russia last year passed a decree approving carbon trading in principle. But businesses have had to wait for the government to draw up a legal framework. Western intermediaries and speculators already have plowed millions into the potential 3 billion euro (US$4.4 billion) Russian market. The Kyoto Protocol puts limits on greenhouse gases from 36 rich nations but allows them to fund emissions-cutting projects in poor and former communist countries and count the cuts as their own. Finnish utility Fortum signed a first-of-its-kind deal to buy more than 5 million carbon dioxide emissions credits from Russia’s Territorial Generation Co. No. 1 (TGC-1), operator of a dozen hydro projects. TGC-1 is to reconstruct hydro plants, expand and renew its combined heat and power plants, and improve its heating network. The resulting credits are valued at 70 million euros (US$103 million).

Alstom to equip Uganda’s 255-mw Bujagali

Alstom Hydro received a 160 million euro (US$251 million) contract to equip the 255-mw Bujagali hydroelectric project on the Victoria Nile River in Uganda. Alstom Hydro, a joint venture of Alstom and Bouygues of France, received the order from turnkey civil works contractor Salini Hydro Ltd. of Italy. Work is to include design, manufacture, and supply of five 51-mw Kaplan turbine-generators, balance of plant, and hydro-mechanical equipment. Equipment is to be manufactured at Alstom facilities in France, Switzerland, and India. Development partners Sithe Global Power LLC and Industrial Promotion Services (Kenya) Ltd. (IPS) announced financial closing in December 2007 of a US$682 million construction debt facility. Construction began in August at Jinja, Uganda, with completion expected in 2011. Sithe Global of the United States and IPS, an affiliate of the Aga Khan Fund for African Development, own Bujagali Energy Ltd. (BEL), the project’s development consortium.

Chile requires renewables investment

Chile’s Congress passed legislation in March requiring utilities to invest in, and supply up to 10 percent of their electricity from, “non-conventional” sources, including small hydro and ocean energy. The lower house of Congress, the Camara de Diputados, voted, 95-0, to accept Senate amendments to the bill, sending it to President Michelle Bachelet for signature. The legislation requires that non-conventional energy sources account for at least 10 percent of the energy supplied by Chile’s electric utilities by 2024. Non-conventional sources include hydro projects up to 40 mw, as well as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass sources. The Senate added ocean energy including tidal, wave, and ocean thermal sources.

Bhutan seen generating 6,000 mw of hydro

The draft 10th Plan of Bhutan’s Department of Energy anticipates construction of nearly a dozen hydro projects to serve domestic needs and to export nearly 5,000 mw to India by 2020. Bhutan’s Kuensel newspaper published an outline of the draft indicating India’s Himalayan neighbor would have to add 350 mw per year for 12 years to fulfill an agreement with India for long-term cooperation on hydropower. In 2007, India and Bhutan agreed to implement the 1,095-mw Punatsangchhu 1 project on Bhutan’s Punatsangchhu River, their fourth joint hydro development. According to the draft, a detailed project report (DPR) has been completed for Punatsangchhu 1 and pre-construction activity has begun. An agreement was signed in 2006 to prepare DPRs for 990-mw Punatsangchhu 2, and 670-mw Mangdechhu on the Mangdechhu River. Pre-construction activity also is reported on the 114-mw Dagachhu project.

Bulgaria aims hydro at renewables target

Bulgaria’s economy and energy minister says Bulgaria should rely on its hydro potential to help meet increasing energy demand. Minister Petar Dimitrov also told a February conference that Bulgaria should proceed with plans to build a new nuclear power plant rather than opt for wind and solar power. Dimitrov did not say how exactly Bulgaria would meet a European Union target to increase renewable energy’s share to 20 percent of all power by 2020 but said his country should rely on its hydro potential to meet growing demand. Bulgaria and neighboring Romania are considering building two hydropower plants of 420 mw each at the towns of Nikopol and Turnu Magurele on the Danube River and two other hydro plants of 285 mw each at Silistra and Calarasi on the Danube.

Argentina, Ecuador plan Coca Codo Sinclair

Ecuador President Rafael Correa and energy officials of Ecuador and Argentina ratified an agreement for joint development of the 1,500-mw Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric project on the Coca River in Ecuador’s Napo Province. The governments agreed the project is to be carried out by Coca Codo Sinclair S.A., a joint venture of Compania de Generacion Termoelectrica Pinchincha S.A. (Termopichincha) of Ecuador and Energia Argentina S.A. (Enarsa) of Argentina. Ecuador is to finance 70 percent of the US$1.6 billion project, with Argentina providing the remaining 30 percent.

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World Bank boosts hydro, other renewables

The World Bank says its group funding for hydropower, other renewable energy projects, and energy efficiency increased 67 percent in the previous year to US$1.43 billion. Of that, the bank said, in the year ending June 30, it allotted US$751 million for hydropower projects of more than 10 mw. It awarded US$421 million for new renewable energy projects, including hydropower up to 10 mw, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal projects. Energy efficiency projects received US$262 million. “The World Bank considers hydropower, regardless of scale, as renewable energy,” the bank said. “However, for reporting purposes, hydropower projects in which the installed capacity at a single facility exceeds 10 mw are reported separately.” The bank said there has been a steady increase in the share of financing the World Bank Group committed for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects since 1990, with total financing topping US$11 billion.

Uganda begins construction of 250-mw Bujagali

Uganda officials formally marked the beginning of construction in August of the 250-mw Bujagali hydroelectric project on the Victoria Nile River. Prince Karim Aga Khan, leader of 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims worldwide, agreed to lay the foundation stone for the project. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development is helping develop the project, which was defended by the Muslim leader against environmentalist criticism. “Hydroelectricity is clean energy advancing sustainable development while minimizing its environmental impact,” the Aga Khan said. Following fast-track negotiations that concluded nine agreements, the government of Uganda released US$75 million, financed by Uganda Electricity Transmission Co. Ltd., to Italian contractor Salini Costruttori SpA to assist in mobilization and commence the construction. The US$799 million project is being developed by Bujagali Energy Ltd., a consortium led by Industrial Promotion Services (Kenya) Ltd., a member of the Aga Khan Development network, and Sithe Global of the United States.

Brazil basin surveys find 37 projects

Brazil’s energy research agency completed inventories of the Uruguai and Paranaiba river basins finding 37 potential hydroelectric projects totaling 4,638 mw could be developed by 2016. Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE) said in September it completed the basin studies, the first such integrated environmental evaluations in the scope of socio-environmental planning for the Brazil electric sector. EPE said it is evaluating four more basins, the Parnaiba, Tocantins, Doce, and Paraiba do Sul. In other action, Brazil utility Furnas Centrais Eletricas S/A reports it found hydropower potential totaling 1,000 mw in an inventory of two rivers in Brazil’s Minas Gerais State, the Jequitinhonha and Aracuai.

Assessment backs Nepal’s 750-mw West Seti

An environmental assessment of Nepal’s 750-mw West Seti hydroelectric project finds the development will bring US$991 million in economic benefits to Nepal over 30 years and will mitigate adverse effects on ecosystems and residents. A unit of Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp. is expected to begin construction of West Seti by late 2007 on the Seti River in Doti District of Nepal’s Far Western Development Region. The project is expected to require 5.5 years to build, 400 kilometers west of Kathmandu. The project is to include four 187.5-mw vertical-shaft Francis turbine-generators with a head of 259 meters in an underground powerhouse, a 195-meter-tall concrete-faced rockfill dam, and a 2,060-hectare reservoir.

Verbund weighs Russian hydro venture

Austrian utility Verbund says it will decide by the end of 2007 whether to pursue an 800 million euro (US$1.1 billion) investment in a hydroelectric project in Russia. “We are seriously looking into this hydroelectric project along the Angara River in Siberia and we want to come to a decision this year on whether we will launch a due diligence,” Verbund Chief Executive Michael Pistauer said. Verbund and Russia’s HydroOGK, to be the world’s second largest hydro utility upon Russian utility restructuring, signed a memorandum of understanding in 2006 on cooperating to develop hydroelectric projects in Russia. The Austrian utility would hold 49 percent in the joint venture and investment for the expected plant would total some 1.9 billion euros (US$2.6 billion).

Ecuador awards 228-mw Toachi-Pilaton

Ecuador regulator Consejo Nacional de Electricidad (Conelec) signed a concession agreement October 8 awarding construction of the 228-mw Toachi-Pilaton hydroelectric project to Hidrotoapi S.A., a company owned by Pichincha Province. Toachi-Pilaton, previously estimated at 190 mw, is to involve construction of two hydropower plants, 50-mw Sarapullo on the Pilaton River and 178-mw Alluriquin on the Pilaton and Toachi rivers. Hidrotoapi won the development concession in 2005 and holds a US$170 million line of credit from Brazilian development bank Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Economico e Social. Hidrotoapi named Brazil’s Construtora Norberto Odebrecht its strategic partner in building Toachi-Pilaton. Construction is expected to begin in early 2008, with completion in mid-2011. Funding from Ecuador’s energy and hydrocarbon investment fund, Fondo Ecuatoriano de Inversion en los Sectores Energetico e Hidrocarburifero, is to save Pichincha more than US$100 million in developing the US$458 million project.

GE Hydro restructuring aimed at growth

General Electric’s GE Hydro unit is to undergo global restructuring to focus on areas of future growth, the company said in October. GE Hydro’s Schenectady, N.Y., U.S.A., headquarters is to move to Sao Paulo, Brazil, the site of GE Hydro Inepar, GE Hydro’s joint venture with Inepar S.A. Industria e Construcoes of Brazil. A spokesman said Brazil has the second largest hydro generation market in the world, after China. GE Hydro planned to begin technology transfer in November to establish a hydraulic laboratory adjoining the Araraquara, Brazil, facilities of an Inepar affiliate, equipment manufacturer IESA. IESA President Atilano Oms Sobrinho said Araraquara also is to house most of the investment in production equipment and will result in the most complete investment in hydro generation in Latin America. Oms said the venture would be 50-50 between the partners. GE manufacturing and laboratory facilities in Sweden and Finland will be absorbed into the new GE Hydro Inepar. Canada activities at GE Hydro’s turbine manufacturing plant in Lachine, Québec, and engineering and drafting operations in Peterborough, Ontario, are to wind down by June 2008. Service facilities in St. Augustin and Beloeil, Québec, are to be unaffected. Operations in the United Kingdom are to be phased out and facilities in Norway are to be sold.

China to spend on hydro in renewables push

China plans to spend more than 1 trillion renminbi (US$132.5 billion) by 2020 on large hydroelectric projects to help meet new national goals to increase usage of renewable energy. Vice Chairman Chen Deming of the National Development and Reform Commission said the hydro investment figure is more than half of the total 2 trillion renminbi (US$265 billion) that China plans to spend on renewable energy by 2020, most of it corporate funds. The plan, which is to reduce use of coal for power generation, also calls for investment in tidal, wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal energy. The investment is to help China obtain 15 percent of its installed capacity from renewable sources by 2020, up from 7.5 percent in 2005.

Portugal proposes ten projects of 1,096 mw

Portugal Economy Minister Manuel Pinho announced the government will invest in ten new hydroelectric projects totaling 1,096 mw. Pinho presented a national program of dams with high hydroelectric potential in five river basins that the Ministerio da Economia estimated would require an investment of 1.14 billion euros (US$1.61 billion). The proposed projects include 78-mw Almourol, 48-mw Alvito, 109-mw Daivoes, 234-mw Foz Tua, 163-mw Fridao, 72-mw Girabolhos, 112-mw Gouvaes, 113-mw Padroselos, 77-mw Pinhosao, and 90-mw Vidago. Pinho said hydro projects totaling 2,000 mw are to be launched this year, including announced projects 170-mw Baixo Sabor, 243-mw Picote 2, 178-mw Bemposta 2, and 259.2-mw Alqueva. The minister said the goal is to reach production of 7,000 mw of hydropower by 2020, although that goal might be accelerated, he said, due to the number of projects under study.

Alcoa eyes smelter powered by 2,400-mw Bakun

U.S. aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. is considering construction of a smelter in Malaysia that would use power from the 2,400-mw Bakun hydroelectric project on Borneo Island. President Jon Erik Reinhardsen of Alcoa Global Primary Growth said the company is talking with officials about a possible joint venture for a smelter to produce up to a million tons of aluminum per year. The smelter would be located in Malaysia’s Sarawak State on Borneo, where Bakun is expected to be completed in 2010 or 2011. The plan involves Alcoa and Smelter Asia, a consortium of majority Malaysian-owned interests. Global miner Rio Tinto Ltd. has said it plans to develop an aluminum smelter in Sarawak that would utilize Bakun power.

Ghana launches construction of 400-mw Bui

Ghana President John Agyekum Kufuor formally began construction of the 400-mw Bui hydroelectric project in a groundbreaking ceremony in August on Ghana’s Black Volta River. SinoHydro Corp. of China is building the project under a US$594 million engineering-procurement-construction contract. Work is to be completed in 2012. Officials of Ghana and the Export-Import Bank of China signed a financing agreement providing an initial US$292 million for the project. The total US$622 million project also includes irrigation, fisheries, and tourism components. Kufuor also spoke of plans to build small hydro projects on the Ankobra, Pra, Tano, and White Volta rivers.