General Electric (GE) agreed to sell GE Energy’s hydropower business to Pescarmona Group of Companies (PGC), parent of Argentina-based hydro industry supplier IMPSA. GE said the sale includes GE’s worldwide hydro business, excluding operations in Norway and Sweden. A PGC offer to buy those operations remains under consideration. Closing, expected in the first quarter of 2007, is subject to regulatory approvals and discussions with other parties. GE Energy President John Krenicki said the sale would let Atlanta-based GE Energy focus on other segments of the power industry, while positioning PGC for continued growth. GE’s hydro operation is based in Schenectady, N.Y., and employs 2,000 people globally. PGC Chairman Enrique Pescarmona said the deal enhances PGC’s position with IMPSA (Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona SA) as a global player in hydro. PGC employs more than 6,000 people in 27 countries.
Brazil to speed up 120 stalled projects
Newly re-elected Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva plans to hire more people and modify environmental laws to force through 120 stalled infrastructure projects in his second term, a senior Environment Ministry official says. “I would say the president has decided to adopt a hands-on approach in his second term,” ministry Executive Secretary Claudio Langoni said. Langoni said about 20 transportation projects were on the president’s list while the rest were pipelines, hydroelectric projects, and other energy projects. Among the projects are the 11,182-mw Belo Monte hydroelectric project on the Xingu River, 1,087-mw Estreito on the Tocantins River, and 3,580-mw Santo Antonio and 3,900-mw Jirau on the Madeira River. Confusing environmental laws are blamed for stalling dozens of projects, many of them in the sensitive Amazon rain forest.
Afghan grid to be fed by Tajik hydro
Consultants and contractors are to be recruited to upgrade hydro generation in Tajikistan and to build a transmission system to deliver the additional hydropower to neighboring Afghanistan. The project envisages exporting power from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and eventually to Pakistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is lending US$35 million to Afghanistan and US$21.5 million to Tajikistan for the regional interconnection. In Tajikistan, there are to be upgrades and increased investment in hydro plants. The project is to export 300 mw to Afghanistan and generate another 320 gigawatt-hours in Tajikistan. ADB also is considering providing US$3 million to assess the economic and technical feasibility of the Central Asia South Asia Regional Electricity Market Project.
Norsk Hydro eyes 500-mw Greenland hydro
Norwegian energy and aluminum group Norsk Hydro said it will study building an aluminum plant in Greenland to take advantage of the Arctic island’s hydropower capabilities. The study will check the scope for building a primary aluminum plant able to produce 300,000 tons per year and requiring power-generating capacity of 500 mw, Hydro said. In its first phase, the study will review the hydro potential of Greenland, hydrological data, and environmental issues. The study is to be concluded by April.
India completes 1,450-mw Sardar Sarovar
India completed construction of the controversial 1,450-mw Sardar Sarovar hydroelectric project, nearly two decades after it was begun. Authorities hailed completion of the giant dam in Gujarat State as an answer to the thirst, irrigation, and power needs of millions. “The dam will change the future of the country,” Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said December 31 after the last bucket of concrete was poured on the US$7.7 billion dam. Sardar Sarovar is the centerpiece of the multi-billion-dollar Narmada Valley development project that taps the Narmada through a series of dams, reservoirs, and canals. Construction began in 1987, but soon became the focus of one of the world’s longest social and environmental campaigns.
Inga backers hope Kabila win brings peace
Neighboring nations welcomed President Joseph Kabila’s victory in presidential elections of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), hoping the democratic mandate he won will bring stability and prosperity to volatile central Africa. International donors and financiers have said plans for the 3,500-mw Inga 3 hydropower project on the Congo River will stay on the drawing board until DRC’s new government has brought peace and security. Inga 3 is seen as the first step in a 40,000-mw Inga complex that would anchor a grid delivering power throughout Africa.
Bank boosts Central America mega-projects
The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) is urging Central American countries to advance an ambitious series of “mega-infrastructure” projects, including hydropower, to stimulate social change throughout the region. More than 300 officials of Central American nations discussed initiatives of both national and regional scope at a November workshop organized by the IADB and the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat. Hydropower developments were among projects discussed: 67-mw El Chaparral and 243-mw Cimarron in El Salvador; 1,700-mw Copalar in Nicaragua; 630-mw El Diquis in Costa Rica; and a dam system in the Sula Valley of Honduras, which could include 20-mw El Tablon, 172-mw Jicatuyo, 97-mw Los Llanitos, 100-mw Piedras Amarillas, and 58-mw Aguas de las Reinas.
Swiss approve exports to Turkey’s Ilisu
The Swiss government approved export guarantees to firms providing equipment and services to Turkey’s controversial 1,200-mw Ilisu Dam. Swiss news agency Swissinfo reported the government gave approval in December for the Swiss Export Credit Agency to guarantee export risks of Alstom Switzerland, Maggia, Stucky, and Colenco to provide goods and engineering services worth 225 million francs (US$184.6 million). Employing standards of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Bank, the government said it established more than 100 possible criteria for the project, involving population, cultural artifacts, ecology, and neighboring countries. The 1.2 billion euro (US$1.54 billion) Ilisu is part of the Southeast Anatolia Project, a US$32 billion plan to develop Turkey’s southeast and east.
Russia to tender multi-billion-dollar hydro
Russian electricity reforms advanced with word of Russia’s first multi-billion-dollar tender to build new hydropower plants in Russia’s Far East at an estimated cost of up to US$15 billion. Russia’s HydroOGK said the tendering, planned for early 2007, would be to build the 8,500-mw Yuzhno-Yakutsk hydro complex at a cost of US$12 billion to US$14 billion, and the Nizhnye-Zeyskaya and Nizhnye-Bureyskaya stations, with combined capacity of 600 mw, at a cost of US$1 billion. HydroOGK, one of the world’s largest producers of hydropower, said Austrian utility Verbund, Norway’s Norsk Hydro and Statkraft, U.S. Alcoa, and Russia’s newly merging aluminum giant Rusal-Sual were among companies interested in the projects.
Two hydro plants planned on Gambia River
Four countries in West Africa have agreed to build two hydropower stations on the Gambia River at a cost of more than US$579 million. Guinea, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Gambia, comprising the Organization for the Development of the River Gambia (OMVG), agreed to advance the 90-mw Sambangalou project in Gambia and the 215-mw Kaleta project in Guinea. With partial funding by the African Development Bank, work is to start in April with the plants operational by 2012.
Report: Malaysia’s Sime to own Bakun
The Malaysian government has agreed in principle to let conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd take ownership of the 2,400-mw Bakun hydroelectric project on the island of Borneo, the Edge weekly reported. Sime Darby leads the consortium building the dam, which is nearing completion. Additionally, Malaysia’s Business Times reported Sime Darby and European engineer ABB won a US$4.28 billion undersea transmission cable contract for Bakun. The cables would deliver power from Bakun to mainland Malaysia.
Spain’s Iberdrola to buy Scottish Power
Iberdrola, Spain’s largest hydropower generator, is to buy Scottish Power of the United Kingdom, another hydropower operator, for 11.6 billion pounds (US$22.5 billion). The deal is to create Europe’s third-biggest utility and a world leader in renewable energy. It would have 36,603 mw of installed capacity, of which 6,040 mw is renewable energy. The two utilities have 28,000 mw of renewable energy in the pipeline. Iberdrola’s generation includes 21 major hydroelectric projects totaling 6,895 mw, while Scottish Power’s portfolio lists nine hydro projects totaling 564 mw. Iberdrola will keep the Scottish Power brand, with that company based in Glasgow, while the group will have its headquarters in Bilbao, Spain. The bid is dependent on shareholder approval at both companies and green lights from European and U.S. regulators. Scottish Power’s board recommended investors accept the bid at a shareholders’ meeting due in March 2007. Iberdrola expects to complete the deal at the end of April.
U.N. launches climate plan for Africa
The United Nations launched the Nairobi Framework, a two-year plan to help poor countries, especially Africa, participate in the U.N.-backed Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing an international climate change conference in Nairobi, Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the plan by six U.N. agencies to help developing nations obtain more funds to promote clean energies such as hydropower and wind. He urged donor countries to contribute. Annan said the U.N.’s environment and development agencies also are launching a scheme to help poor nations factor climate change into development plans, such as “climate-proofing” infrastructure.