Organised by the European Small Hydro Association, the Hidroenergia 2002 conference brought together specialists in the field of small hydro power from all over the world to discuss ways to reach the Kyoto commitments and deal with the challenges and opportunities for small hydro in the future. Carrieann Davies reports

WHILE travelling to Mulhouse in France to attend the Hidroenergia 2002 conference, I was told by a fellow passenger on the plane that the translation of the city name was ‘house of the mill’. This point was also brought up during the opening of the conference when Rene Coulomb, president of Société Hydrotechnique de France (SHF), suggested that with such a name, the French city was almost destined to play host to a conference on small hydro.

Organised by the European Small Hydro Association (esha), SHF and Groupement des Producteurs Autonomes d’Energie Hydroélectrique, the Hidroenergia 2002 international conference was held from 3-6 July at the Société Industrielle de Mulhouse in the heart of the French city. The biannual conference was designed to serve as a platform of exchange of points of view for actors in the small hydro power sector worldwide and to help provide solutions on how to reach the Kyoto commitments in the field of small hydro.

The renewable issue was prevalent during the conference. It was pointed out during the opening session that worldwide and notably in Europe, the energy arising from river flows to be exploited is huge. Many European professionals wonder how to sustainably develop this renewable resource.

The new and reforming spirit of the European Union is favourable to the development of renewable energies as a way of combating the increase of greenhouse gases. Small hydro power is currently the dominant electricity-producing renewable energy in Europe (with 9600MW of installed capacities in 2000). This number could reach 14,000MW by 2010 as stated in the EU White Paper Energy for the Future: Renewable Sources of Energy.

Member states of the EU face a real challenge in order to implement the targets set by the EU White Paper and the Directive on the Promotion of Electricity from Renewable Energy Sources in the Internal Electricity Market. Small hydro has a major role to play in reaching the 12% targets of EU energy supply from renewables by 2010. In France for instance, the objective is set to double the capacities of small hydro power – an additional capacity of 1000MW is needed. In order to reach this is what suggested during the conference that administrative procedures, which are often still too bureaucratic, need to be simplified, and scientific and consensual standards need to be adopted when deciding on classifying or downgrading rivers for small hydro exploitation.

Europe has some of the best state-of-the-art small hydro technology to offer. European companies have helped pioneer much of the technical development, and in recent years have often dominated international contracts for small hydro equipment and installations.

In the developing countries, it is economic growth and the increase in energy needs that is proving important in the renewables sector. Asia (especially China and India) is affirming itself as a leading hydraulic continent with 83,000MW of new power to come. Hydraulic energy will play an important role in the future, but its development will depend on several factors such as environmental protection and financing capacity. Eastern European countries are also showing increasing interest in hydro power. The conference offered an opportunity for these small hydro players to talk to others in the industry and discuss ways to promote the industry.

Country profiles

A particularly interesting session in the conference was dedicated to country reports on small hydro power. A paper by Gabriele Botta, Enrico Brega and Emiliano Veronese of Italy-based CESI for example, was prepared in the framework of the Research Programme for the Italian Electric System, Project on Renewable Energy. According to the authors, the main objective of this research programme is the gradual technical quality improvement of the electricity system in Italy. This target was designed to bring the quality provided throughout the country closer to European standards and to reconcile the economic and financial goals of electricity operators, with general social aspirations, environmental protection and the efficient use of resources.

The main goal of the study was the evaluation of existing small and mini hydro potential in Italian regions. At the start of work, an investigation on the state-of-the-art of small hydro plants was carried out and all the available documents from operators were collected and reviewed. This resulted in the creation of a relational database and a website designed to become an important reference point for potential small hydro operators.

Delegates at Hidroenergia were also presented with information on the small hydro industry in Lithuania. In a paper authored by Juozas Burneikis and Dalia Streimikiene of the Lithuanian Energy Institute and Petras Punys of the lithuanian-hydropower-association, the problems of hydro energy development support attracting private investors in Lithuania were discussed.

The audience were told by presenter Punys that Lithuania’s hydro resources are not plentiful but available resources are not being utilised completely. Total potential hydro resources of all Lithuanian rivers make up to 5.13TWh/year and technical resources 2.65TWh/year. Hydro energy resources which have been utilised are Kaunas power plant (100.8MW) and 36 small hydro power plants. These plants produce about 380GWh per year or 4% of current electricity demand in the country. This makes up to 14% of all technically harnessable hydro energy resources in Lithuania.

There is no officially adopted hydro energy development strategy in Lithuania, say the authors. The problem of hydro power resource utilisation relatively consists of two parts: the problems related to utilisation of the main hydro energy resources of the river Nemunas and the river Neris and the problems associated with the utilisation of the local hydro resources of all other Lithuanian rivers or small hydro plants.

According to the authors, the Lithuanian government needs a comprehensive policy for the promotion of renewable energy and utilisation and it is necessary to use economic measures (such as subsidies to renewable energy source utilisation, including green trading certificates) to attract private investments into hydro sector development. It is necessary to prepare hydro energy development strategy and policy setting long-term hydro energy development targets and foreseeing the strict policy measures to achieve targets.

Russian policy

Hydro has an important role in the energy balance in Russia, as discussed in a paper by Vladimir Karghiev and Alexander Sokolski from the All-Russian Institute of Electricification of Agriculture. Currently more than 165BkWh are produced by Russian hydro power plants, corresponding to about 20% of total electricity production. Economically feasible potential of hydro in Russia is 852B kWh, and currently only 20% of this potential is used.

Although there is a large potential for development of hydro in Russia, intensive development of this energy is not expected, as Russia has only recently started to recover from more than 10 years of deep economic crisis. It is well know that large hydro projects require significant investments and have long payback periods. In these conditions, the only viable option is development of small hydro energy.

Currently in Russia, there are about 50 micro hydro plants (with capacity 15-50kW) and 300 small hydro power plants with total capacity of 1300MW producing 2.2BkWh annually. The main options for small hydro energy development are:

• Modernisation and rehabilitation of existing small hydro plants.

• Construction of small hydro plants on hydro systems.

• Using existing water reservoirs where water level differences exist for small hydro plant construction.

At the end of 2001, the Russian Government adopted the Federal Programme Energy Efficient Economy where attention is paid to small hydro development as part of the general energy strategy. One third of Russian Federation subjects, which have hydro energy resources, have expressed their interest in small hydro energy development; the programme sees construction of small hydro power plants with a total capacity of 360MW. Average capacity of these hydro power plants is 2MW, varying from micro hydro (below 100kW) to small (up to 15MW).

Poster presentations

Delegates at Hidroenergia were also given the opportunity to attend poster presentations on the situation in other countries throughout the world. A presentation on Nepal for example showed that the country has tremendous resources for hydro power development, ranging from micro hydro plants through to run-of-river and storage projects. Of the hydro potential in the country (83,000MW), 42,000MW is economically feasible. However, so far only 535MW has been harnessed.

Until 1992, private sector involvement in the development an operation of hydropower projects was limited to projects of capacities below 100kW. In 1992, His Majesty’s Government of Nepal formulated the Hydropower development Policy 1992, the Irrigation Policy 1992, the Water Resources Act 1992, the Electricity Act 1992, and subsequent regulations for the overall utilisation, conservation, management and development of water resources. Such regulations have made provisions to actively involve the private sector for the proper utilisation, conservation, management and development of water resources.

The Hydropower Development Policy 2001 is an important government policy for hydro power project development. The policy states that new projects should be clear, transparent, investment friendly and practical to investment.

With the Hydropower Development Policy, a licence is not required for the development and operation of hydroelectric projects up to 1000kW. However, for projects between 100kW and 1000kW, concerned agencies have to be notified before starting the works for the project. To develop and operate a project large than 1000kW, a license should be obtained from the Ministry of Water Resources through the Department of Electricity Development upon submission of completed application forms and feasibility studies.

As the new policy has opened the door for private sector, investors and developers (national and foreign) are attracted towards hydropower development. Since December 2001, 52 companies have applied to the concerned agencies to obtain licenses in order to carry out feasibility studies for projects larger than 1000kW. Three projects -Khimti-I (60MW), Upper Bhotekoshi (36MW), Indrawati III (7.5MW) – are already constructed. Two projects – Chilime (20MW) and Piluwakhola (3MW) – are under construction, and eight projects have signed PPAs and are preparing for construction.

With such potential for small hydro projects around the world, it seems that small hydro will play an important part renewable energy generation in the future, as Rene Coulomb, president of SHF, says: ‘We are very much interested in hydroelectricity and convinced that implementing small plants has to be encouraged, being careful about the environmental consequences, because this clean, renewable and decentralised energy will help solve numerous local problems of energy supply while respecting the commitments of the Kyoto Protocol.’