HYDRO 2017: Shaping the future of hydropower
HYDRO 2017 opened in Seville, Spain, on 9 October, with welcome and keynote messages from officers of UNIDO, ICOLD, the International Energy Agency, ENDESA, SPANCOLD, the World Bank and Itaipu Binacional; some pieces of music by Manuel de Falla were played by a chamber orchestra which had been founded by the composer.
More than 1250 delegates, representing 76 nations, assembled at the FIBES Congress Centre, where a major Technical Exhibition was also held alongside the conference. (More than 100 additional registered participants who could not receive visas to enter Spain will be sent the conference materials.)
The event, hosted by Aqua~Media International Ltd (publisher of Hydropower & Dams) had the theme ‘Shaping the Future of Hydropower’. In her welcome message outlining the mission of the conference and previewing the session themes, Alison Bartle reviewed some of the achievements around the world over the past year, referring to a number of long-awaited hydro schemes which had moved ahead or where commissioning had begun.
ICOLD President Prof Anton Schleiss, in his opening message, spoke of the continuing need for water infrastructure. He highlighted the role which dams and reservoirs could play in meeting the 16 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and also demonstrated the ‘security belt’ of large dams built around the world in areas which would otherwise be prone to water scarcity. Schleiss added that dams and reservoirs would continue to be vital in many areas, especially as a result of the new challenges presented by climate change.
Luciano Canale, Senior Hydropower Specialist at the World Bank, described in his keynote address the two main types of project-based guarantee schemes offered by the Bank: loan guarantees designed to provide risk mitigation to commercial lenders with respect to key government risks which were essential for the viability of the investment; and, payment guarantees, intended to provide risk mitigation to private entities with respect to payment default on non-loan related obligations by government. Canale gave examples of guarantees which had been applied to both public and private hydropower projects.
R. P. Singh, of the Renewable and Rural Energy Unit of UNIDO, spoke of UNIDO’s mandate to promote industrial and sustainable industrial development, and the role to be played by renewable energy. He described ways in which UNIDO could support developers of small-scale hydropower, in terms of technology transfer, capacity building, social mobilization and the management of demonstration schemes. He also drew attention to the ‘World Small Hydro Development Report’ which had recently been compiled and launched by UNIDO, based on reports from 160 countries.
Niels Nielsen, Secretary of IEA Hydro, gave details of IEA’s Cooperation Programme on Hydropower. He highlighted current and future activities in the fields of: small hydro; economic evaluation of energy and water management services provided by multipurpose hydro schemes; greenhouse gas emissions from hydro reservoirs; fish protection; modelling cascade developments; and decision-making for hydro plant renewals.
Francisco Arteaga, CEO of the Andalucía and Estremadura division of the Spanish utility ENDESA, described his company’s structure, mission and activities, stressing in particular its commitment to environmental protection and sustainability.
Dr José Polimón, President of the Spanish Committee of ICOLD, outlined trends in Spanish dam construction, and he also stressed the importance of capacity building and training, drawing attention to some examples of work in this field by his Committee.
Two side events had taken place on the day before the main conference began: Itaipu Binacional had organized a symposium on the operation of large hydro plants, where operational issues at plants such as Three Gorges and Itaipu had been discussed. Dr Rui J. Correa da Silva presented some of the outcomes during the plenary opening of HYDRO 2017.
The other co-located event was a workshop on small hydro, organized by Prof David Williams and Gordon Black, of Learning Hydro, UK. Around 45 participants worked in groups during the day under the guidance of the tutors, and by the end of the workshop had been able to design their own small hydro plant, based on data from a real project.
Over the three days of HYDRO 2017, a broad range of topics relating to hydropower planning, development, operation and maintenance were covered, in a total of 35 sessions, running in four parallel tracks. Much emphasis was placed this year on addressing challenges, from financial risk to natural hazards (for example relating to climate and unfavourable site conditions) and man-made hazards (such as requirements for cyber security, and working on hydro projects in conflict zones).
Safety was an underlying theme in sessions dealing with dams, powerplants, gateworks and spillways; one talk focused on the safety of construction workers on site.
Research and innovation in hydro machinery, the increasingly important role of pumped storage, and the importance of adequate maintenance and timely refurbishment were other key themes of the technical sessions.
In the environment session, speakers covered a broad range of topics, including wildlife management in Uganda, maintaining environmental flows and water quality monitoring. Chairman Markus Aufleger commented that environmental issues should not be regarded as a tiresome duty but rather as a key element in the implementation of a sustainable and successful hydro project.
In a session dedicated to fish protection, speakers covered a variety of cases, from large tropical rivers to cold water streams in the Alps. The audience was made aware of a wide field of research in this field, as well as some innovative solutions such as flexible electric fish fences. There were two talks about the Xayaburi scheme in Laos, the first run-of-river scheme on the Mekong for which a unique system of up- and downstream fish passage facilities has been developed.
On social aspects, presentations covered livelihood restoration programmes, long-term planning for social mitigation, and lessons learned from the Murum resettlement scheme in Sarawak, Malaysia.