Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Oxford University study says large dams are uneconomical

Oxford University study says large dams are uneconomical


Just in time for this week’s ASEAN Renewable Energy Week, new scientific results have questioned the economic viability of large dams. Calculations by the Bruno Manser Fund show that the Malaysian Bakun Dam scores even worse than the average large dam.

(OXFORD, UK) Researchers at Oxford University have found that planners and policymakers systematically underestimate the costs and time required to implement large dam projects: the actual costs of large dams were 96 per cent higher than the estimate, on average, and implementation took 44 per cent longer than scheduled.

The new report thus explicitly states that large dams are not economical: “We find that even before accounting for negative impacts on human society and environment, the actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.” The study is based on the most comprehensive economic analysis of large dams ever undertaken. “Large dams” refers to dams with a wall height in excess of 15m.

The study, which is based on a representative sample of 245 large hydropower dams built in 65 different countries between 1934 and 2007, concludes that cost and time overruns have not improved over time. The cost and time forecasts are still as wrong as they were 70 years ago.

The study cites two reasons for these immense cost and time overruns: firstly, both experts and laypersons are systematically “too optimistic about the time, costs, and benefits of a decision”. Secondly, project promoters deceive the decision-makers and the public with strategic misrepresentations.

The new study was released in late March, just in time for the ASEAN Renewable Energy Week 2014, which started yesterday. Southeast Asia’s Energy Ministers are meeting in Kuala Lumpur to discuss their government’s future energy policies. Malaysia is also presenting and promoting its dams.

A closer look at the most recently completed hydropower dam in Malaysia, the Bakun Dam, however, shows that this dam scores worse than the average large dam. The Bakun Dam was meant to cost RM2.5 billion. While the official expenditure figures have risen to RM7.4 billion, the two scientists, Sovacool and Bulan, put the total cost of the Bakun Dam at RM15.325 billion. When construction work commenced in 1994, the dam was meant to be operational in 2003. It was actually completed in 2011, but even today, not all eight turbines are operational.

Calculations by the Bruno Manser Fund show that the time overrun at the Bakun Dam was almost 90 per cent and the cost overrun was even 200 to 500 per cent. As the Bakun Dam was financed by the federal government – mainly through the Employees Provident Fund and the Pensions Fund – Malaysia's citizens are having to pay the price for the over-optimistic forecasts of the Bakun Dam promoters.
With the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), Sarawak is implementing a whole series of uneconomical large dams of this type. The projected costs of US$105 billion for SCORE are therefore likely to rise. The proposed Baram Dam is likely to cost more than RM5 billion rather than the budgeted RM3 billion. Sarawak is playing for high stakes, while the population bears the risks.

To minimize these risks associated with large dams, the Oxford study advises countries at a lower level of economic development to implement energy alternatives that have a shorter implementation span and a smaller budget than large dams. The ASEAN Ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur ought to take these findings seriously. The time is ripe for turning the focus away from mega-projects that involve great financial risks and moving towards small-scale energy sources that incur lower environmental and social costs.


Ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell:
On Anne Tolley’s
Callous Folly

Years ago, I remember someone in the Heath Ministry telling me off the record that regulatory oversight in this country largely consisted in ‘waiting for something to turn green or fall off somebody’ before the authorities would swing into action...

Last week’s conflict between Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and District Court judge Carolyn Henwood illustrated quite a few of the flaws in the system. More>>

 

Members’ Bills: Greens' Domestic Violence And Loans Bills Pulled From Ballot

Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence-Victims' Protection Bill introduces workplace protections for victims of domestic violence, including allowing victims to request paid domestic violence leave for up to 10 days... Gareth Hughes’ Bill allows Kiwis with student loans to defer their student loan repayments into a first home savings scheme. More>>

ALSO:

IPCA: Police Did Not 'Deliberately' Use Pepper Spray On 10-Year-Old

"When spraying the man, the officer did not properly consider the necessity of using pepper spray in a confined space, the likelihood that it would affect the other innocent passengers or the fact that he was using a more powerful spray." More>>

ALSO:

Donor Bill Passes: Full Income Compensation For Live Organ Donors

Unanimous cross-party support for the Compensation for Live Organ Donors Bill represents a critical step in reducing the burgeoning waiting list for kidney donations, according to Kidney Health New Zealand chief executive Max Reid. More>>

ALSO:

Earthquake Response: Emergency Legislation Prepared

Three new Bills have been drafted in the wake of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on November 14 to ensure the government can enable affected communities to respond quickly and efficiently. More>>

ALSO:

Housing MPs: New Building(s) For Parliament

A new building will be erected on Parliament grounds to house Members of Parliament and their staff who currently work in leased accommodation in Bowen House. The plan has cross-Party support, apart from NZ First, said Parliament’s Speaker, Rt Hon David Carter. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news