Monday, August 25, 2014

Large Dams Just Aren't Worth the Cost

Large Dams Just Aren't Worth the Cost
Opinion - Jacques Leslie
The New York Times, August 22, 2014
nyti.ms/1poPZdC

THAYER SCUDDER, the world's leading authority on the impact of dams on
poor people, has changed his mind about dams.

A frequent consultant on large dam projects, Mr. Scudder held out hope
through most of his 58-year career that the poverty relief delivered by
a properly constructed and managed dam would outweigh the social and
environmental damage it caused. Now, at age 84, he has concluded that
large dams not only aren't worth their cost, but that many currently
under construction "will have disastrous environmental and
socio-economic consequences," as he wrote in a recent email.

Mr. Scudder, an emeritus anthropology professor at the California
Institute of Technology, describes his disillusionment with dams as
gradual. He was a dam proponent when he began his first research project
in 1956, documenting the impact of forced resettlement on 57,000 Tonga
people in the Gwembe Valley of present-day Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Construction of the Kariba Dam, which relied on what was then the
largest loan in the World Bank's history, required the Tonga to move
from their ancestral homes along the Zambezi River to infertile land
downstream. Mr. Scudder has been tracking their disintegration ever since.

Once cohesive and self-sufficient, the Tonga are troubled by
intermittent hunger, rampant alcoholism and astronomical unemployment.
Desperate for income, some have resorted to illegal drug cultivation and
smuggling, elephant poaching, pimping and prostitution. Villagers still
lack electricity.

Mr. Scudder's most recent stint as a consultant, on the Nam Theun 2 Dam
in Laos, delivered his final disappointment. He and two fellow advisers
supported the project because it required the dam's funders to carry out
programs that would leave people displaced by the dam in better shape
than before the project started. But the dam was finished in 2010, and
the programs' goals remain unmet. Meanwhile, the dam's three owners are
considering turning over all responsibilities to the Laotian government
- "too soon," Mr. Scudder said in an interview. "The government wants to
build 60 dams over the next 20 or 30 years, and at the moment it doesn't
have the capacity to deal with environmental and social impacts for any
single one of them."

"Nam Theun 2 confirmed my longstanding suspicion that the task of
building a large dam is just too complex and too damaging to priceless
natural resources," he said. He now thinks his most significant
accomplishment was not improving a dam, but stopping one: He led a 1992
study that helped prevent construction of a dam that would have harmed
Botswana's Okavango Delta, one of the world's last great wetlands.

Part of what moved Mr. Scudder to go public with his revised assessment
was the corroboration he found in a stunning Oxford University study
published in March in Energy Policy. The study, by Atif Ansar, Bent
Flyvbjerg, Alexander Budzier and Daniel Lunn, draws upon cost statistics
for 245 large dams built between 1934 and 2007. Without even taking into
account social and environmental impacts, which are almost invariably
negative and frequently vast, the study finds that "the actual
construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return."

The study's authors - three management scholars and a statistician - say
planners are systematically biased toward excessive optimism, which dam
promoters exploit with deception or blatant corruption. The study finds
that actual dam expenses on average were nearly double pre-building
estimates, and several times greater than overruns of other kinds of
infrastructure construction, including roads, railroads, bridges and
tunnels. On average, dam construction took 8.6 years, 44 percent longer
than predicted - so much time, the authors say, that large dams are
"ineffective in resolving urgent energy crises."

DAMS typically consume large chunks of developing countries' financial
resources, as dam planners underestimate the impact of inflation and
currency depreciation. Many of the funds that support large dams arrive
as loans to the host countries, and must eventually be paid off in hard
currency. But most dam revenue comes from electricity sales in local
currencies. When local currencies fall against the dollar, as often
happens, the burden of those loans grows.

One reason this dynamic has been overlooked is that earlier studies
evaluated dams' economic performance by considering whether
international lenders like the World Bank recovered their loans - and in
most cases, they did. But the economic impact on host countries was
often debilitating. Dam projects are so huge that beginning in the
1980s, dam overruns became major components of debt crises in Turkey,
Brazil, Mexico and the former Yugoslavia. "For many countries, the
national economy is so fragile that the debt from just one mega-dam can
completely negatively affect the national economy," Mr. Flyvbjerg, the
study's lead investigator, told me.

To underline its point, the study singles out the massive Diamer-Bhasha
Dam, now under construction in Pakistan across the Indus River. It is
projected to cost $12.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) and finish
construction by 2021. But the study suggests that it won't be completed
until 2027, by which time it could cost $35 billion (again, in 2008
dollars) - a quarter of Pakistan's gross domestic product that year.

Using the study's criteria, most of the world's planned mega-dams would
be deemed cost-ineffective. That's unquestionably true of the gargantuan
Inga complex of eight dams intended to span the Congo River - its first
two projects have produced huge cost overruns - and Brazil's purported
$14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will replace a swath of Amazonian rain
forest with the world's third-largest hydroelectric dam.

Instead of building enormous, one-of-a-kind edifices like large dams,
the study's authors recommend "agile energy alternatives" like wind,
solar and mini-hydropower facilities. "We're stuck in a 1950s mode where
everything was done in a very bespoke, manual way," Mr. Ansar said over
the phone. "We need things that are more easily standardized, things
that fit inside a container and can be easily transported."

All this runs directly contrary to the current international
dam-building boom. Chinese, Brazilian and Indian construction companies
are building hundreds of dams around the world, and the World Bank
announced a year ago that it was reviving a moribund strategy to fund
mega-dams. The biggest ones look so seductive, so dazzling, that it has
taken us generations to notice: They're brute-force, Industrial Age
artifacts that rarely deliver what they promise.

Jacques Leslie is the author, most recently, of "Deep Water: The Epic
Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment."
________________________________________________

You received this message as a subscriber on the list: dams@list.internationalrivers.org

To be removed from the list, please visit:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2486/unsubscribe.jsp

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why Control of a Terrifying Dam in Iraq Is Life or Death for Half Million People

Why Control of a Terrifying Dam in Iraq Is Life or Death for Half
Million People
ABC News, Aug 7, 2014
By LEE FERRAN and MAZIN FAIQ, Investigative Reporter
https://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/mosul-dam-control-terrifying-dam-iraq-life-death/story?id=24878057

There are conflicting reports out today about whether the extremist
group ISIS has taken control over Iraq's largest and most dangerous dam,
which Iraqi officials had previously said was safe under the protection
of Kurdish forces.

ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, wrote on their website today
that they are in control of the two-mile-wide Mosul Dam, echoing claims
the group made over the weekend. Iraqi media reports and a Kurdish
official have supported the claim. But late Wednesday and early today,
two Iraqi government officials, one from the Ministry of Water Resources
and the other familiar with the dam's operations, told ABC News ISIS had
not taken the dam and said that it is functioning as usual.

The question of control is a critical one for the millions of Iraqis who
live downstream of the Mosul Dam all the way down the Tigris to Baghdad,
because if the dam was taken over, ISIS would be in control of what
could effectively be a major weapon of mass destruction – one that the
U.S. military said in 2006 was, without the help of brutal jihadists,
already "the most dangerous dam in the world."

It wouldn't even have to be sabotaged to fail – if an extremist group
took control and wanted the dam to break, they may be able to simply do
nothing.

The gargantuan dam, built in the mid-1980s, was constructed on "a
foundation of soluble soils that are continuously dissolving, resulting
in the formation of cavities and voids underground that place the dam at
risk for failure," said an urgent letter sent from David Petraeus, then
commanding general of the U.S. Army, and Ryan Crocker, then U.S.
Ambassador to Iraq, to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2007.
[The Mosul Dam was built by the German-Italian Hochtief consortium -
International Rivers]

The dam requires "extraordinary engineering measures" – namely constant
grouting operations -- to fill in the holes and "maintain the structural
integrity and operating capability of the dam," according to a U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers (USACE) report from the same year.

For 30 years –- and through several periods of violent conflict -- the
Iraqi government has managed to keep the dam upright by continuously
pumping in literally tons of grout like an industrial version of the
little Dutch boy, as a geotechnical expert who worked on the dam put it.

But the U.S. says any failure of the dam could be "catastrophic."

"[T]he most severe impact of a dam failure would be [for] the City of
Mosul, located 50 kilometers [31 miles] downstream of the dam,"
Petraeus' and Crocker's 2007 letter says. "Assuming a worse [sic] case
scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum
operating level could result in a flood wave over 20 meters [65 feet]
deep at the City of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of
life and property." Mosul alone is estimated to be home to more than 1.5
million people. Flood waters, albeit at a lower level, could reach all
the way to Baghdad, more than 200 miles further down the Tigris,
depending on the performance of another smaller dam further downriver.

A 2011 report written by a USACE official and published in Water Power
magazine estimated failure "could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian
deaths."

The Water Power article states that Iraq is "fully aware of the
challenges facing the ageing structure," but as USACE civil engineer
David Paul told the magazine at the time, "there is no precedence for
what they are trying to achieve" in finding a more permanent solution to
the dam's problems than never-ending grouting – including the proposed
use of an incredibly large "cutoff wall" to help mitigate the seepage.
There are other measures that can be taken, such as keeping the
reservoir levels lower than the maximum to reduce pressure on the dam;
that was one of several recommendations the U.S. government made in 2007.

But none totally fix the problem and the geotechnical expert who spoke
to ABC News said that he didn't have reason to believe the dam is any
better off today than it was when the USACE report was published in 2007.

That was also before a powerful jihadist group borne of the Syrian civil
war began its deadly march across Iraq and reportedly up to Mosul Dam's
doorstep. Like today, earlier this week there were conflicting reports
about whether ISIS had taken control of the dam during a previous
24-hour offensive in the area.

Tuesday the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources circulated a statement
saying the dam was not under ISIS control but has been protected by
Kurdish peshmerga troops. The government department reiterated the claim
earlier today.

A second Iraqi official involved with the dam's operations said
Wednesday that grouting supplies were safe and there was plenty in store.

"Grouting is still ongoing and never stopped," said the official, who
asked his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the
media.

But what if ISIS does eventually overtake the dam? Or what if it already
has?

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that Mosul
Dam "has been in the sights of [ISIS] since its offensive began in June
to further threaten and terrorize the Iraqi people."

In addition to flooding concerns, the dam is also a "key source" of
power and water for the surrounding area – making it a vital piece of
infrastructure either way, another State Department spokesperson told
ABC News Wednesday. An American intelligence source agreed and said that
ISIS's potential control over and exploitation of power and water is a
focus of U.S. intelligence community.

The Iraqi official involved in the dam's operations refused to respond
to the dire hypothetical of ISIS control Wednesday, but a U.S.
government official long-familiar with the dam said it's an unsettling
idea made more so by a litany of unanswered questions. ISIS may not want
the dam to fail, considering it controls territory that would be flooded
and could leverage their control over the water and power source, but
the U.S. official said it would still be up to the jihadist group to
keep the grouting going.

"If ISIS does indeed have or gain control of the dam, will they listen
to the dam engineers who have been working there for decades and who
understand the need for constant grouting? … And then this is the
biggie: If they can't or don't want to grout, how long will the dam
last?... And if it fails, will it be a catastrophic all-at-once failure
or more of a slowly building uncontrolled release?" the official told
ABC News. "The short answer is no one knows. This is all guesswork anyway."

The official said that he is not aware of official U.S. calculations
about how long the dam would last without grouting but says he
understands it to be "on the order of weeks, not months." The
geotechnical expert agreed that "weeks" was a skeptical, but entirely
possible estimation.

"The potential for a disaster can't be ruled by and should be of great
concern to all parties involved," the U.S. official said.

The U.S. State Department told ABC News late Wednesday the department is
"monitoring the situation closely." Officials at the Pentagon did not
immediately respond to questions about whether any contingency plans are
in place in case ISIS does take over the dam.
________________________________________________

You received this message as a subscriber on the list: dams@list.internationalrivers.org

To be removed from the list, please visit:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2486/unsubscribe.jsp

Friday, July 25, 2014

10 things you should know about investment in renewable energy /The Guardian


10 things you should know about investment in renewable energy

In a recent panel, experts shared their thoughts on how to increase investment in renewables amid falling prices, policy uncertainty and emerging tech
Share 893


1. Solar and wind are cheaper than you think!

Despite an investor assumption that renewables are expensive, "this stuff is really cheap", said Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Jenny Chase. There are plenty of places where solar and wind already make economic sense, provided investment conditions are right.

People will start buying solar panels for their houses - without the need for subsidies - because it makes financial sense, Chase said. Panels now sell for less than a quarter of their 2008 price. And they won't be restricted to rooftops: Solar and wind plants are increasingly feeding into the grid and fulfilling the energy needs of large local power users, such as factories, in India and Chile.

Bloomberg estimates that the world will have 600GW of photovoltaic solar worldwide by 2020 (an increase from about 150GW today) and 1,900GW by 2030; making up 5-7% of the global electricity mix. These positive predictions are based on the falling prices of renewables.

2. Policy uncertainty is the biggest obstacle to investment in renewables

Governments are failing to take up the challenge and lead the way on renewables. The energy debate has become too politicised, argued EY's Ben Warren, and a lack of cohesive and stable policy has undermined a "long-term view on investment in renewable energy". Among the problems are skewed tax relief, fossil fuel subsidies and retroactive changes to renewable incentives, which make them risky to investors, panelists said.

Politicians are also listening to the wrong people, said Bruce Davis of Abundance Generation. The increasingly vocal lobbying of those with vested interests in slowing the growth of renewables is being heard more than the majority of voters who are in favour.

3. Regulators are getting better, although they still have 'sharp teeth'

That said, panelists were positive about the role of regulators, at least in the UK. Davis, who runs crowdfunding organisation Abundance Generation, said he is constantly updating the Financial Conduct Authority about innovations and the benefits crowdfunding can bring to investors without compromising investor protections.

"There is a world of difference between the old [Financial Services Authority] and the new FCA approach," he said. "That is not to say they don't have sharp teeth, but they do make efforts to listen to evidence and form policy based on real experiences of platforms."

4. Germany, Denmark and South Africa are good role models on renewables

Germany and Denmark have made great strides on renewables - partly because they have a diverse and large ownership base, said Co-operative Energy's Paul Monaghan. Germany has over 800 renewable energy co-operatives and the government has made - and stuck to - strong incentives for renewables, while in Denmark, communities have the right to invest and profit from wind turbine programs, which creates a broad political base for policy support.

The South African government has also done well on getting the best prices. It held a competitive tender, asking a simple question: "who wants to sell us wind and solar power for the lowest prices?" It was a simple but effective strategy that was clearly aligned with the long-term goals of government and also creates sustainable jobs locally, Davis said.

5. Business is leading the way

Corporates and individuals are taking the lead and hoping that policy will eventually follow. Business interruption risk and price volatility mean that an increasing number of businesses are taking a strategic approach to energy procurement. "Direct procurement of renewable energy might just prove to be one way for the sector to reduce its dependence on government policy," Warren said.

Software company SAP's Will Ritzrau said of his company's policy: "we look at renewables as a long term approach to control our energy cost and thus margin impact."

6. We need a diversity of projects

Having as many models as possible, from small-scale initiatives to large-scale projects, will be the key to financing the necessary energy transition, Emma Howard Boyd said.

According to Davis, co-operatives are good models where there is a motivated community with the requisite time and expertise. But it's also important to have schemes that appeal to commercial developers and make them more open to community involvement.

7. The public are up for renewables

Poll after poll shows that people have bought into the idea of renewables, Monghan said; now we have to unlock the big institutional investors. Crowdfunding can provide an easy way for people to get involved in projects that have already been vetted and will offer reasonable returns. Plus, organisations such as Share Action and Divestment are helping people have control over where their money is invested.

8. Developing countries could spearhead innovation

We may well see the flow of innovation reverse, with developed markets being disrupted by companies from developing markets. Energy innovation using mobile technology is one clear example of where this could happen: "more people in India own mobile phones than they do toothbrushes", Ashden's Chhavi Sharma said.

Sharma pointed to innovations such as M-PESA, which have allowed the renewable energy sector to leapfrog in Africa. Enterprises such as Off.Grid:Electric are using a service-based model and selling pay-as-you-go solar that can be paid for daily using mobile money, akin to setting up a micro-utility.

9. Power of the internet

It's hard to imagine how crowdfunding would work in an internet-free world, Chase said. The "internet of things" and broadband availability will enable automated and smart energy consumption. Large amounts of information will be needed to make the energy markets work. Soon smart technology will control various appliances so your fridge will stop cooling if the power price spikes, and other devices can be switched on or off automatically according to need.

Social media - and the internet more generally - have the potential to accelerate the awareness and acceptance of new technology. New and viable ideas, especially if they benefit individuals, will survive and grow. However, growing into a conservative market too early is also risky and some big companies may be a little more cautious about adopting potentially too-radical innovation.

10. There's some way to go

There have been leaps and bounds in terms of innovation and affordability, which have helped renewables to become an attractive investment opportunity. But if we are to reach the kind of levels required for a genuine energy transition, there's much more to be done. Investors should continue to view opportunities realistically, but also remain open-minded enough to recognise - and tap - the great renewable opportunities that exist.

The finance hub is funded by EY. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.

Join the community of sustainability professionals and experts. Become a GSB member to get more stories like this direct to your inbox

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Government Audit Finds Hydropower Aid Doesn't Benefit the Poor

Government Audit Finds Hydropower Aid Doesn't Benefit the Poor
By Peter Bosshard
Huffington Post, July 8, 2014
www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-bosshard/government-audit-finds-hy_b_5564340.html

No other industrialized country relies on hydropower for its own power
generation as much as Norway. Norwegian companies build hydropower dams
around the world, including controversial projects like the Theun
Hinboun Dam in Laos. Norwegian development aid actively supports the
interests of the hydropower sector. Norway is also promoting hydropower
in international organizations and diplomatic initiatives.

Since the turn of the century, Norway has spent more than NOK 12 billion
(approximately $1.5 billion) on development assistance for the energy
sector. This aid consists of the following elements:

. Almost half of the assistance supported investments in mid-sized
hydropower projects in Chile, the Philippines and other countries
through SN Power, a state-owned investment company. The projects in
which SN Power has invested include Allain Duhangan in Northern India, a
dam that was bitterly opposed by the local population.

. Norwegian aid supports the planning and construction of transmission
lines, including a project that would export power from the
controversial dams in the rainforest of Sarawak to Indonesia.

. Norway is strengthening the capacity of Southern governments to build
hydropower projects, and funds feasibility studies for specific
projects. Norway has for example entered a hydropower partnership with
Ethiopia, and has funded studies for two large dams on the Blue Nile.
Only last month, the Norwegian government canceled this cooperation due
to the Ethiopian government's insistence on uneconomic mega-dams.

. A small portion of Norway's clean energy aid supports the development
of decentralized renewable wind and solar projects.

While the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has failed to evaluate
its energy assistance, the government's Auditor General Office carried
out an in-depth assessment of the assistance and submitted the findings
to parliament on June 25.

The findings of the audit are highly critical. The Auditor General
states: "Norwegian assistance to clean energy has not led to a
noticeable increase in power generation and has contributed little to
improving living conditions for the poor in those countries that have
been prioritized for such support."

More specifically, the audit finds that Norwegian energy assistance is
"still primarily directed towards hydropower, although countries have
ample opportunities to utilize solar and wind energy resources." This
bias makes recipient countries "more vulnerable to failure in energy
supply" than a more balanced approach would have done. The support for
transmission lines has created energy access for over 100,000
households, although "primarily the wealthiest households" have
benefited from this. The various measures have not spurred private
investment in the recipient countries, and their economic viability is weak.

"A stunning 12.26 billion Norwegian kroners has had little effect on
electricity production, poverty alleviation and business creation in the
prioritized target countries," FIVAS, a Norwegian environmental
organization and long-time partner of International Rivers, commented on
the audit findings. "This confirms our view that too much Norwegian
support has been tied up in hydropower."

In his response to the audit, Norway's Foreign Minister agreed that the
rapid advancement of solar, wind and biomass power "will make it
possible to expand the breadth of investment in clean energy," and
accepted the recommendation "to strengthen efforts to improve energy
access in rural areas with small-scale renewable solutions." At the same
time, the Foreign Minister argued that among all technologies, Norway
was still best placed to extend aid for hydropower.

The strong and unambiguous findings of the independent audit offer the
government an opportunity to change course. A failure to do so in the
interest of the country's hydropower industry would dent the high
credibility of Norway's development assistance.

Norway is a leading voice in the global dams debate and is often
considered a model in development and energy finance. The new audit adds
to the growing evidence that large hydropower projects are not effective
at reducing poverty, and that better tools for achieving this goal
exist. The World Bank, the Green Climate Fund (which receives strong
support from Norway and will soon decide on its own energy priorities)
and other institutions should take note.

[An English translation of the audit report's main sections is available
at
www.internationalrivers.org/files/attached-files/norway_oag_report_translation_fivas_0714.pdf.]
________________________________________________

You received this message as a subscriber on the list: dams@list.internationalrivers.org

To be removed from the list, please visit:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2486/unsubscribe.jsp

Thursday, June 26, 2014

As Violence Grips Iraq, Fears of Pre-Emptive Flooding Arise

As Violence Grips Iraq, Fears of Pre-Emptive Flooding Arise
Dam operators warn that army's plan to open floodgates to thwart ISIS
would create massive destruction to villages

Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Common Dreams, 6/26/2014
www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/06/26-7

The possibility of potentially catastrophic flooding has emerged
following reporting that either Iraqi military forces or Sunni militants
would open the floodgates of a dam on the Euphrates River.

Citing statements by Iraqi security officials made Wednesday, the New
York Times reported that ISIS forces "were advancing on the Haditha
Dam," located roughly 120 miles from Baghdad.

The dam is the country's second largest and generates hydroelectric power.

The Times does not cite a specific threat made by ISIS forces that they
would open the floodgates, but notes that ISIS fighters in April seized
the Falluja Dam and unleashed flooding.

The Times reporting adds that Iraqi government forces were responding to
the possibility by being prepared to open the dam's floodgates
themselves. From the Times:

"This will lead to the flooding of the town and villages and will
harm you also," the [dam] employee said he told the [army] officers.

Regardless of which side might open the floodgates, it is the civilian
population who would suffer in such an event, Peter Bosshard, Policy
Director of International Rivers, an organization that works to protect
rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them, explained to
Common Dreams.

"Dams have been used as weapons of mass destruction through the ages,"
Bosshard continued. "In the first recorded water war, the army of Umma,
a Sumerian city state, drained irrigation canals against their enemies
of Lagash in present-day Iraq, not far from Haditha Dam, 4,500 years
ago. In the most infamous case, the nationalist army of Chian Kai Shek
destroyed the dikes of the Yellow River in 1937 to slow the advancing
Japanese army, thereby flooding hundreds of thousands of square
kilometers of land and killing at least 800,000 of its own people," he
added.

Khalid Salman, head of the Haditha local council, told the Washington
Post that ISIS would want take over the dam not to unleash flooding but
to control the power plant powered by it, thus being able to provide a
service to the local population.

"Of course they want to control the dam, which is very important, not
only for Anbar, but for all of Iraq," the Post quotes Salman as saying.

Meanwhile, violence continues to erupt in the country. Reuters reports
that on Thursday battles were "raging" in the city of Tikrit, where
Iraqi forces are launching a counter-attack on Sunni militant forces.

And on Wednesday, Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rebuked gains made by
ISIS, and said his supporters "will shake the ground under the feet of
ignorance and extremism," Agence France-Presse reports.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki has told the BBC that he welcomed
strikes against ISIS carried out by Syria, which hit within the Syrian
side of the Iraq/Syira border. He said they were carried out without
coordination, but added, "We actually welcome any Syrian strike against
ISIS."

Amidst the official comments by leaders and new gains in territory by
ISIS, a humanitarian crisis continues to unfold, as over one million
Iraqis - including half a million children - have been forced to flee
their homes.

"Yet again, another humanitarian crisis hits war-torn Iraq,
disproportionately and negatively impacting the hungry poor," reads a
statement issued Wednesday by United Nations World Food Programme
Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

"The UN and the entire humanitarian community are surging staff,
releasing funds and drawing on all available stocks to assist people
affected by the fighting and meet the urgent growing needs," Cousin added.
________________________________________________

You received this message as a subscriber on the list: dams@list.internationalrivers.org

To be removed from the list, please visit:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2486/unsubscribe.jsp

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hydropower poses grid challenge for Brazil

Hydropower poses grid challenge for Brazil
7 June 2014

Brazil may be too reliant on hydropower as it builds world�s 3rd biggest dam, according to US Department of Energy

By Gerard Wynn

While rainfall has recently doused World Cup football pitches in southern and eastern Brazil, persistent drought elsewhere poses a challenge for the country�s hydropower, the US Department of Energy said on Tuesday.

�Brazil is currently experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, which has contributed to electricity blackouts in many Brazilian regions,� the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

�The south has been inundated with rainfall that has affected some World Cup matches, including those held in Natal, the site of team USA�s victory over Ghana last night,� it added.

�(But) the drought has persisted in northern Brazil. Much of Brazil�s hydroelectric potential lies in the country�s Amazon River basin. This reliance on one resource for most of the country�s electricity generation, combined with the distant and disparate locations of its population centers, has presented electricity reliability challenges.�

Hydropower is responsible for more than three quarters of Brazil�s electricity generation, making the present drought a topic of energy security.

Brazil�s hydropower consumption fell 7% last year, according to data published by the energy company BP on Monday.

Analysts expect that the country can cope with extra electricity demand during the World Cup, in the worst case limiting supply in regions not participating in the tournament, and stepping up gas-fired power.

Hydropower consumption last year fell by 6.8 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE), while natural gas consumption almost made up the difference, growing by 5.4 MTOE, according to the BP data.

�Brazil has spent more than $5 billion to subsidize electric utilities replacing lost hydroelectric generation with fossil fuel-fired generation, including large amounts of liquefied natural gas, and has taken steps to provide backup generation for stadiums,� the EIA said.

Notwithstanding the energy security risks, Brazil is in the process of building the world�s third biggest dam, on a tributary of the Amazon.

The country already has the world�s second biggest dam, by generating capacity, shared with Paraguay on the Parana River in the south west of the country. At around 14,000 megawatts (MW), it is second only to the China Three Gorges� 22,500 MW.

And it is expected to commission an equally enormous dam within two years.

�The 14,000-megawatt Belo Monte dam along the Xingu River, expected to be completed in 2016, will become the second-largest dam in Brazil�and the third-largest dam in the world�at a projected cost of $13 billion,� the EIA said.

- See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2014/06/17/hydropower-poses-grid-challenge-for-brazil/#sthash.jVpHejH1.dpuf
________________________________________________

You received this message as a subscriber on the list: dams@list.internationalrivers.org

To be removed from the list, please visit:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2486/unsubscribe.jsp

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Should hydropower truly be described as renewable? (SciDevNet)

http://www.scidev.net/global/water/editorials/hydropower-described-as-renewable.html


Speed read
� Hydroelectric dams provide carbon-free energy as well as a show of power

� But they cause environmental harm and displace communities

� Energy production should be labelled �renewable� if it serves local needs



A revival in huge hydro projects may cut carbon emissions, but proponents' use of the term 'renewable' is misplaced.

Hydroelectric dams are the quintessential expression of human control of nature. As well as power, they create reservoirs of clean water, which to some are both pleasing to the eye and a place for tranquil recreation. They promise control of flooding, provide a steady supply of water for irrigation and, with time, a source of fresh fish.

They are an economist's as well as an engineer's dream, and, coupled with dynamic images of the cranes, bulldozers and swarms of men in hard hats associated with their construction, they are an instant marketing opportunity for politicians eager to demonstrate their commitment to progress.

Some argue that hydroelectric power has green credentials because it makes use of water - a free abundant and inherently benign medium.

It takes advantage of gravity, transforming energy from flowing water into electricity in a process that is at once clean and carbon free. With growing global concerns over carbon emissions, it is no surprise that hydroelectric projects should have a certain allure for governments wrestling with their countries' energy needs.

Yet this squeaky clean image has become tarnished over time, with criticism over the impact of these structures on the environment and the lives of people displaced by their construction.

As large dams have come under ever-increasing scrutiny, so their popularity with governments has steadily declined over the past two decades.

But this trend has recently been reversed. Massive hydroelectric projects are once again coming into vogue, with a boom in construction across the planet, from Brazil to China. Watching one of our audio slideshows on the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil cannot but elicit concern.

The stark, if hauntingly beautiful, images of the Xingu rainforest, which is being destroyed in the wake of the controversial project, rekindle an uneasy awareness: that large-scale hydroelectric projects do not easily fit into the clean energy paradigm. So, should they enjoy the positive connotations of the word 'renewable'?

How 'clean' is hydro?

Part of this unease is rooted in a sense that the displacement of thousands of people and the logging of huge areas, the gouging out and crushing of rocks - in short, the systematic alteration of an ancient landscape with unpredictable final consequences - is not exactly 'clean', either environmentally or, indeed, morally.

The other part of the unease reflects the uses to which the energy from large-scale hydro projects will be put.

For some developing economies, there is an argument for exploring the careful and judicious use of hydropower to meet a particular region's energy needs, especially when these complement its water needs.

Listen to Mallika Aryal's interview with Jeremy Bird, director-general of the International Water Management Institute, for a succinct account of why water management and energy production are so inextricably linked.

Where energy production is borne out of necessity and serves local needs, I find the idea that hydropower can be described as 'renewable' reasonably acceptable, notwithstanding the controversies that always seem to surround such projects. There is more here than a simple question of semantics, or the technical meaning of words.

The words we use also reflect a moral orientation. In my view, the crucial and central ingredient of the concept of 'renewable' should be a clear and overt recognition of this moral orientation, without any lingering taste of guilt.

When hydropower energy generation moves from being a necessity that answers pressing energy needs to being a commodity to trade, and where it has a massive impact on the local ecosystem, questions need to be raised about whether it should enjoy the positive, feel-good connotations of the term 'renewable'.

Relying on green credentials

I have an uneasy feeling that there is a growing reliance in some quarters on the green credentials of hydroelectric power to support its development - where it is not being produced for local needs and where it has a massive impact on local ecosystems and human lives.

Malaysia, for example - which last month hosted the ASEAN Renewable Energy Week - seems to have started to tap into the soothing qualities of the word 'renewable', most recently to assuage critics of a proposed dam on the Baram River in Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

The Baram hydroelectric dam project is planned as part of the so-called Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy, which will involve building a cascade of dams along the river. But the electricity it is set to produce will not be for local use, but for export, including to neighbouring Brunei Darussalam.

Critics of the dam also draw attention to the loss of biodiversity, forest and cultivated land that construction will cause.

They suggest that 'mini-hydros' on smaller tributaries are a more acceptable alternative as they interfere less with the river ecosystem and generate power for local use rather than as a commodity for export.

Large dams on mighty rivers such as the Xingu and the Baram profoundly alter ecosystems in ways which are unpredictable and potentially disastrous, as well as altering the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people.

So what would a sustainable approach be to making use of such an ecosystem? The Baram and the Xingu already bathe and feed the areas surrounding them through natural river flow and will continue to do so as long as they are not choked midstream.

Perhaps such rivers should simply be left in peace - and, in such contexts, perhaps we need to be more cautious in our use of the word 'renewable'.

Editor, SciDev.Net
________________________________________________

You received this message as a subscriber on the list: dams@list.internationalrivers.org

To be removed from the list, please visit:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2486/unsubscribe.jsp