Russia Makes First Comprehensive Assessment of the Impact of Hydropower Industry on a River Basin

9 july 2015

The Analytical Center, the World Wildlife Fund, leading energy group En+ Group and energy company EuroSibEnergo held a round table on the findings of Russia’s first comprehensive assessment of the possible impact of the developing hydropower industry on the Amur River basin.

The findings of a joint environmental and socio-economic study of the impact of further development of hydroelectric power on the Amur River basin were presented at the round table. The Head of the Program for the environmental policy in the fuel and energy sector of the World Wildlife Fund Aleksey Knizhnikov reminded those present that in 2012 WWF Russia and En+ Group agreed to carry out comprehensive assessments of the impact of hydroelectric projects on the Amur River basin. The study looked at key environmental and socio-economic factors that need to be taken into account when making decisions about building new dams in the Amur River basin. “The study is an example of the first comprehensive environmental and socio-economic assessment in Russia of the impact that hydroelectric generation has on a river basin,” the Director for Environmental Protection Policy of the World Wildlife Fund Evgeny Schwarz said. According to him, carrying out the assessment proved a challenging task and ended up taking two years rather than just one year as had been expected.

During the discussion experts talked about how the study was organized and about the methodology that was used for the comprehensive assessment of further development of hydroelectric power generation on the Amur basin. The coordinator of projects to preserve fresh water ecosystems and sustainability of hydroelectric power generation of the World Wildlife Fund Oksana Nikitina talked about the environmental section of the study. “We looked at the Russian part of the Amur basin, studying existing and proposed HPPs,” she said. “Hydroelectric power plants have to be designed in the right way to minimize their impact on the environment while maximizing economic growth.” The assessment used three key indicators measured in units of area, namely: change in the stream conditions downstream, changes in the aquatic ecosystems upstream and the blockage of the river basin. There are two additional parameters: the fragmentation of the basin and changes in the sediment yield.

The Project Manager with EuroSibEnergo Denis Menshikov talked about the socio-economic section of the study. “The financial and economic model was developed to assess the advisability of participation in the project,” he said, “Macroeconomic effectiveness is defined as the added value generated by the investment project, taking into account the multiplicative effect of the construction of a new hydroelectric power plant while the budget effectiveness is defined as the ratio of total state investments in the project to total tax revenue all levels of government stand to receive once the project is implemented and starts making money.”

Experts believe that the next step in development of this approach should involve addition of factors for which no proposals were made at this stage for how to assess them. Experts also believe that this kind of comprehensive analysis can be used as a tool for identifying the most balanced projects for subsequent implementation.