Hydroelectric power plants support the expansion of other renewables

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The fast expansion of energy sources such as solar and wind, planned for the coming years, will strengthen the role of hydroelectric plants to guarantee energy security for different countries. The statement is from Itaipu’s executive technical director, David Krug, who participated in a panel on the first day of the Global Symposium on Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions.

The event began on Monday (13) and went on until Wednesday (15), at Itaipu Binacional, on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. It was organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in partnership with Itaipu.

According to Krug, solar and wind energy sources are growing and increasing their share in the energy matrix. But, despite adding energy to the system, these sources do not provide ballast, that is, they do not provide energy security, because they are not centrally dispatchable and depend on the availability of sunlight and winds, which causes great variability in their output.

“These sources require governments to take necessary measures to ensure a baseline for supply, and it is not desirable for this to be done with fossil energy,” says Krug. “This opens up a great opportunity for hydroelectric plants [which also operate from a renewable source, water] to be used to ensure energy security.”

The director was one of the speakers of the “Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions & Case Studies” session, which addressed the water-energy nexus from the point of view of energy and water solutions. The presentations showed international experiences, challenges, and the need to seek more sustainable alternatives linked to water and energy.

The president of the International Hydroelectric Energy Association (IHA), Eddie Rich, also highlighted the role of hydroelectric plants in supporting other renewable forms of energy. “In the next 30 years, we have to fill the gap left by coal and this will be done with renewable energy. Hydroelectric plants will provide support to solar and wind power”, he said.

Regarding micro-hydroelectric plants, the interim director of Integration, Access, and Energy Security of the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), Guillermo Koutodjian, presented cases in three indigenous communities with 804 inhabitants in northern Guatemala. “It is possible to generate sustainable energy in isolated communities,” he said.

“Sustainability is aimed not only at the planet but also at people. In all the Sustainable Development Goals, we have to see what reaches people”, said the team leader of Sustainable Energy at UNDESA, Minoru Takada, who moderated the first panel. “Let’s listen to several solutions that are already being implemented. Several conditions involve society in different locations.”

Water resources

The second panel focused on water-related challenges. The session also brought, remotely and in person, the cases of several international entities and the examples of countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, the United Arab Emirates, India, Tunisia, Spain, and Tajikistan.

Itaipu’s Superintendent of Environmental Management, Ariel Scheffer, explained that the need to maintain water quality in the reservoir imposes several environmental actions on the company that impact the entire region. “Conservation investments bring us a partnership with society. Society benefits, ecosystems benefit, and the license to continue working gives us a fair and sustainable business over time”, he said.

Peder Burek, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, commented on population growth and increased water and energy demand in the Zambezi River basin in southern Africa. The director of research at the National Institute of Research for Rural Engineering, Water and Forests in Tunisia, Mohamed Thameur Chaibi, explained how the water pumping system has made agriculture more productive in the country.

The representative of Tajikistan on the Executive Committee of the International Fund to Save the Aral Sea, Sanoi Boyzoda, spoke about how climate change can endanger the supply of water to a population of more than 75 million people who depend on the water resources of the Aral Sea.

And Mohamed Hosni Ghedira, director of the Masdar Institute, of the United Arab Emirates, addressed the need for the supply of electricity to apply in the desalination of water in the Gulf of Arabia, which is widely used in that country.