HydroVision message: Hydro is key to poverty reduction

An author and Washington Post columnist says the hydropower industry must act to ensure that recent favorable trends in hydropower development continue.

Sebastian Mallaby, author of a best-selling book on the World Bank, told the HydroVision 2006 conference that the hydro industry must manage the political risks of international development to foster the World Bank’s revived interest in hydropower funding.

�And the only way to manage these risks, if you are in the hydro industry, is to do everything you can to keep the development people believing that hydropower is an important part of poverty reduction,� Mallaby said in keynote remarks Aug. 2.

Soaring oil prices and growing concerns about global warming have revived public support and lender interest in hydropower development, Mallaby said. He said the atmosphere is changing at the World Bank, after a five-year drought in large hydropower lending.

�New hydro projects in the pipeline�

�Now my friends at the bank tell me that there’s a lot of planning in the water sector, a lot of talk of new hydro projects in the pipeline,� he said.

But the hydro industry must actively address the political risks inherent in international projects, said Mallaby, author of The World’s Banker: A Story of Failed States, Financial Crises, and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations.

�Hydropower ought to be central to poor countries’ development strategies,� he said. �But I guess my message to you is this: You can’t sit back and just assume it will be.�

Mallaby said individual World Bank board members from rich Western countries have been the target of sophisticated, and effective, lobbying by anti-dam activists, who also have lobbied the media. That, he said, tempts bank officials to concentrate on �nice uncontroversial health clinics� and similar projects.

To retain financing from Western institutions, hydro must pay attention to that political context.

�If you want to reduce infant mortality, you need clinics; and those clinics are going to need electric power,� he said. �If you want to reduce malnutrition you need economic growth and employment, and so you are going to need a reliable source of power that can support an industrial sector.�

Conference hails new hydro development trends

Leslie Eden, president of HydroVision organizer HCI Publications, told the opening session the hydro industry has secured an estimated $10 billion in contracts for hydroelectric projects around the world. She said more than 80 percent of that is for new projects.

�We are emerging from a decade-long holding pattern, caused in large part by political actions that took our industry by surprise,� she said. �This led to a long period of reflection and debate among hydro practitioners, and a careful examination of industry practices.�

Eden said the industry has made great strides to better address social, environmental, economic, and policy challenges. She said HydroVision seeks to address a variety of issues to improve hydropower’s standing in the future global energy mix.

BPA head: We build on hydro legacy

Administrator Steve Wright of the Bonneville Power Administration welcomed delegates to the Pacific Northwest, which generates 60 percent of its electricity from hydropower.

�It’s fitting that this conference is being held here in the land of hydropower,� Wright said. �We have a hydro system that provides some of the lowest rates in the nation, and has proven to be a very reliable system, which has been valuable in meeting the West’s record peak loads in recent weeks.�

“We’ve developed those resources through federal, state, and international cooperation and it is our responsibility to build on the legacy we have been given,” Wright said.

PGE head: Millions invested to improve project effects

Peggy Fowler, Portland General Electric’s CEO and president, noted 20 percent of her utility’s energy is hydro-generated. She emphasized PGE customers want reasonably priced electricity, but not at the expense of endangered salmon runs.

�This year’s HydroVision conference is in the nexus of the hydro industry and salmon restoration activities,� Fowler said. �We continue to invest millions of dollars in our hydro projects to improve turbine efficiency, fish passage, wildlife habitat enhancement, and recreation.�

More than 2,000 hydropower industry experts and stakeholders from 47 nations gathered for HydroVision, July 31-Aug. 4 at the Oregon Convention Center.

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