Final report from World Commission on Dams

The World Commission on Dams released its final report in London on November 16, bringing to an end two years of research and dialogue which aimed to bring some consensus on the role that large dams will play in future development.

The Commission conducted reviews of large dams as well as numerous surveys. It investigated the alternatives to dam development, composed a set of guidelines for future decision making, and made a number of recommendations and proposals for follow-up action by various organizations.

The report provides what is thought to be the most comprehensive, global and independent review of dams to date. The two-year study brought together a diverse forum of engineers, environmentalists, government officials, indigenous people, financiers, affected people and academics.

The report claimed that dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development. It proposed a “rights and risks” approach to decision making in order to minimize associated social and environmental impacts.

UK lifts gas moratorium policy

The UK government has announced that it has lifted its stricter gas fired power station consents policy and sealed a deal with the European Commission for up to à‚£110m ($156m) of aid for the UK’s coal industry.

The move paves the way for the construction of new natural gas-fired power stations. In making the announcement, Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers also gave approval for six gas fired power stations, including the 1200 MW Isle of Grain combined cycle power plant in Kent.

The stricter consents policy was imposed just over two years ago and was designed to create a level playing field for coal-fired power plants while electricity market reforms were implemented. Byers also broke news of a subsidy plan to support the British coal industry in the face of overseas competition.

Scotland’s wave power success

The world’s first commercial wave power station has entered operation in Scotland, feeding electricity into the UK’s national grid. The developers hope that the pioneering 500 kW ‘Limpet’ plant will pave the way for the technology to become a major part of renewable energy resources.

Limpet has been developed by Wavegen and Queen’s University Belfast with European Union support. It has a modular and simple design, helping to overcome the problems experienced by this type of technology in the past.

The plant will supply power to Public Electricity Suppliers in Scotland under a 15-year power purchase agreement. It generates electricity at à‚£0.0595/kWh ($0.042/kWh) compared with à‚£0.03/kWh for onshore wind projects and à‚£0.02/kWh for gas and coal-fired power plants. Wavegen estimates the potential world wave power market to be worth up to à‚£13bn.

Endesa given approval for SNET purchase by France

In a landmark move, the French government has given its approval for the sale of a stake in an electricity generating company to a foreign investor. Spanish electricity group Endesa will acquire a 30 per cent stake in SNET, a subsidiary of French coal group CDF.

This is the first time that the French electricity market has been opened to a foreign industrial company. When the French government decided to privatize SNET, it was widely envisaged that France’s Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux would buy the stake. SNET is planning to construct a new gas-fired power plant at Carling on the Moselle, and will expect Endesa to help finance the project.

Geneva demonstrates GIL link

Siemens Power Transmission and Generation Group has unveiled a project demonstrating the world’s first high voltage second-generation gas insulated transmission line (GIL) technology. The 500 m-long, 300 kV line will replace an existing overhead power transmission line, allowing the expansion of the Palexpo exhibition hall adjacent to Geneva airport.

The underground link will be commissioned in January 2001. It will use second-generation GIL technology, where the insulating gas mixture is composed of 80 per cent nitrogen (N2) and 20 per cent sulphur hexaflouride (SF6). The system is installed in a tunnel passing underneath the new exhibition hall, with six GIL pipes fastened to the tunnel walls. According to Siemens, GIL technology can be installed at a cost of a5m/km ($4.3m/km).

Siemens believes there is a market for the technology where space restrictions are a factor.