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

2040 Target And Lower Standards: “Swimmable” Rivers Five Times More Likely To Make You Sick

Forest & Bird has condemned the government’s new water quality standards, warning New Zealanders that they lock in current levels of water pollution and allow for a 5-fold increase in the chance of getting sick from swimming in a river.

“Despite an explicit assurance from Minister Smith that the new water standards would provide for human and ecosystem health, he has failed to deliver on either of these things,” says Forest & Bird CEO Kevin Hague. More>>

ALSO:

 
 

Immigration: Clampdown On Rogue Employers Good First Step

The Human Trafficking Research Coalition is pleased at the new clampdown on rouge employers who exploit migrants announced by Minister Woodhouse this morning, and believes this is a step in the right direction. More>>

ALSO:

Mayor: 750 New Social And Affordable Homes For Wellington (Over A Decade)

The next stage of Wellington’s Housing Upgrade Programme will see at least 750 new units of social and affordable housing built over the next decade, Mayor Justin Lester has announced. More>>

ALSO:

22/2: Christchurch Quake Memorial Unveiled

A city, a region, a nation and an international community impacted by the Canterbury Earthquakes will come together to mark the sixth anniversary of the deadly quake and dedicate Oi Manawa Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial. More>>

ALSO:


November Quakes:

Gordon Campbell: On The Mana-Maori Party Deal

If the self-interest involved wasn’t so blatant, the electorate deal between the Maori Party and Hone Harawira would be kind of poignant. It’s a bit like seeing the remaining members of Guns’n’Roses or the Eagles back on the road touring the nostalgia circuit… playing all the old hits of Maori unity and kaupapa Maori politics. More>>

ALSO:

Private Provision: First Social Bond To Focus On Mental Health

New Zealand’s first social bond will help around 1700 people with mental illness into work, Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Social Investment Minister Amy Adams say. More>>

ALSO:

Immigration: Short Reprieve For Nine Indian Students

A temporary hold on deportations of nine Indian students is a step in the right direction but the Government urgently needs to implement safeguards to stop further injustices to more international students, the Green Party says. More>>

EARLIER:


Megaupload Case: High Court Rules Dotcom, Co-Accused Eligible For Extradion

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and his three co-accused are eligible for extradition to the United States, New Zealand's High Court ruled... Justice Murray Gilbert upheld a decision by the District Court that there were grounds for Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato to be extradited. More>>

ALSO:

PREVIOUSLY:

Port Hills Fire: Midday Update, Monday 20 February

• 9 homes destroyed
• 2 homes with partial damage. Damage includes things like cracked windows, heat damage.
• 3 properties with damage to other external structures e.g sheds or outbuildings More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news