Hydropower-dependent Economies: The Big Dry

Many developing countries are gradually embracing the hydropower technology as one of their main sources of electrical power. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East are actively pursuing the construction of large dams to develop more hydropower resources. In recent years however, hydropower facilities have been facing power generation challenges, largely owing to variations in climatic parameters brought about by climate change and discrepancies in the pattern of seasonal months. Some countries have been experiencing low amounts of rainfall, and the heavy rains expected to kick in during the wet months have been delayed. As a result, water levels in many reservoirs in developing countries have dropped, causing the amount of electricity generated by hydropower plants to recede.

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Countries that have anchored a major part of their national power supply to hydroplants are bound to encounter economic, social and political obstacles in the face of changes to weather patterns. Myriad case studies conducted throughout the world have shown that lack of reliable power sets off a disastrous domino effect, wreaking havoc in several industries, including utility generation, industrial and commercial production, telecommunications, transportation, urban and rural electrification, mining and petrochemicals. Massive losses in finances and in social services could result in public unrest, often leading to street protests and demonstrations. As the country’s political stability may be threatened by social discontent, transformative investors could lose confidence altogether in pouring in money in ongoing and prospective projects in that country.

Emerging countries can find benefit in studying the impacts of climate change and prolonged summer months before and during the implementation of hydropower projects. Proactive approaches such as this may help them respond and adapt to the effects of climate change, and save costs in maintenance and refurbishment in the long run.

Power for insufficient power
In cases when the power generation capacity of hydropower plants is not enough to meet the existing energy demand during extremely hot months and days of elevated temperatures, there are available technologies that are capable of supporting them, like large-scale mobile rental power generators. Employing temporary power technologies can potentially be an integral part of any proactive approach to counter the effects of climate change on hydropower facilities. For one, interim electric generators represent a cost-effective alternative when supplemental power is required for short periods of time, like during droughts or prolonged absence of rain. As procuring them does not require large capital outlays, provisional power technologies can secure a government or a utility company’s cash flow by not necessitating considerable initial expenditure.

Because every minute counts during potential electricity interruptions, such as load shedding or electric blackouts, solutions to bridge the power gap should be swiftly and rapidly deployed at any given time. Owing to their flexibility and modularity, hiring rental power plants can be a quick and temporary solution for emergency and exceptional situations. Interim power stations are furthermore equipped with cutting-edge innovations that allow their capacities to be ramped up or scaled down, depending on the need of the situation. For instance, when rains start to kick in but are still not enough, utility companies have the liberty to lower the temporary power generation, gradually blending the productions from hydropower plants and rental gensets.

Choosing a power partner
As with the technology, choosing an appropriate interim power partner is an important element of a proactive initiative to mitigate the effects of climate change on hydropower plants. As was established in the foregoing discussion, hydropower generation has increasingly become one, if not the foremost, sources of power for many countries, thus hiring a temporary power provider entails momentous stakes. Imagine, when a country’s economic, social and political stability is on the line, should the government or hydropower companies entrust the power project to companies with little experience in large-scale operations?

There are several factors to consider in choosing a suitable mobile power provider. Governments and utility companies have to be discerning of a rental power supplier’s experience and track record in delivering executable, measurable and sustainable solutions to projects involving hydropower facilities. Industry stakeholders are advised to avoid dealing with backyard companies, which may not be able to deliver the required solutions on time nor on budget. This may create more problems in the long run, leaving vital institutions of a country – schools, hospitals, production plants, airports, telecommunication entities and petrochemical companies – suffering prolonged hours of no electricity and losing millions of dollars in cash and in opportunities by the minute.

Governments and hydropower companies should also consider the manpower expertise and after-sales service delivery of a prospective rental power supplier. A temporary energy partner should have spare parts and human resources readily available to carry-out after-installation support in times of emergency at any given location anytime.

Industry stakeholders should also be keen on a power supplier’s capability of providing flexible, scalable and turnkey solutions for a wide array of requirements. The potential power partner should have the appropriate expertise to study and evaluate a situation and to prescribe the exact solution up to the minutest exigency of a project. In order to translate plans into tangible and executable output, a rental power provider should have adequate and state-of-the-art technologies available in its product line.

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Proactivity is key
Reversing the effects of climate change may involve time – years or, even, decades. It entails paradigm shifts, not only in one country, but in all countries, developed and developing alike. The magnitude of the task at hand is enormous, and governments in several countries are working to commence the change. It remains to be a work in progress, and not all of us may be lucky to see its fulfillment. To support these efforts, governments and utility companies should be proactive and vigilant in moderating the consequences of climate change on the lives of their citizens and customers, respectively. As a sweeping transformation could not implemented overnight, the best thing to do at this very moment is to prepare. Humans of today are fortunate to have acquired the ability to foretell the effects of climate change, and to have on hand solutions to assuage or preclude them. The onus is now on us to put them to productive use.

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The foregoing article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of Arab Water World, published by CPH Media, Middle East.

 

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PRESS INQUIRIES
Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505
rbagatsing@altaaqaglobal.com

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