HY­DRO POWER

A POW­ER­FUL PROM­ISE

Utilities Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

In July, the Dubai Elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter Author­ity (DEWA) an­nounced that en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies had been com­pleted on what is now set to be­come the first hy­dro­elec­tric power sta­tion in the GCC re­gion.

The $523mn hy­dro­elec­tric plant, with a ca­pac­ity to gen­er­ate 250MW, will use wa­ter stored in a reser­voir in Hatta, which can to­tal up to 1.7 bil­lion gal­lons. An up­per reser­voir will also be built 330m above the dam-level in the moun­tains, which will of­fer ad­di­tional stor­age ca­pac­ity of 880 mil­lion gal­lons.

The en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies form part of a $16mn con­sul­tancy con­tract handed to France-head­quar­tered EDF Group by DEWA in June 2017. Its scope in­cludes de­sign, hy­dro-ge­o­log­i­cal, ge­o­log­i­cal, en­vi­ron­men­tal, geotech­ni­cal, and deep ex­ca­va­tion stud­ies.

The move of DEWA’s wide ef­forts to di­ver­sify power gen­er­a­tion sources as de­mand for elec­tric­ity in Dubai and the en­tire UAE in­creases. DEWA also in­tends to boost the lev­els of ef­fi­ciency in power pro­duc­tion.

That’s why for the Hatta pumped stor­age hy­dro project it plans to de­ploy tur­bines us­ing clean and in­ex­pen­sive so­lar en­ergy to pump wa­ter from the lower dam to the up­per reser­voir dur­ing off-peak hours, whereas dur­ing peak hours, the tur­bines will be op­er­ated us­ing the up­per reser­voir’s wa­ter­fall speed to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity.

This elec­tric­ity will be linked to DEWA’s

grid, with over­all power pro­duc­tion ef­fi­ciency ex­pected to reach 90% through the plant’s op­er­a­tions, which can span 80 years.

De­spite the wide adop­tion of other re­new­able en­ergy sources such as so­lar and wind, hy­dro­elec­tric­ity main­tains its po­si­tion as the cheap­est source of elec­tric­ity glob­ally at a cost of US$0.05/ kWh, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Re­new­able En­ergy Agency (IRENA).

How­ever, its po­ten­tial has never been ex­ploited in the GCC, and that is why DEWA is keen on mak­ing its Hatta project a suc­cess to show­case the fea­si­bil­ity of hy­dro power in the re­gion.

“Hy­dropower is a low-cost, re­li­able, and ef­fi­cient en­ergy source with huge po­ten­tial for the re­gion,” says Saeed Mo­hammed Al Tayer, DEWA MD & CEO. “How­ever, es­ti­mates in­di­cate the avail­abil­ity of ap­prox­i­mately 10,000TWh/ year [ter­awatt-hours] of unutilised hy­dropower po­ten­tial world­wide.”

“Hy­dropower is one of the most flex­i­ble and sus­tain­able re­new­able en­ergy sources [and] can be op­er­ated to pro­vide base-load power, as well as peak-load sup­ply through pumped-stor­age.”

IRENA says that the global weighted av­er­age lev­elised cost of elec­tric­ity (LCOE) from new projects com­mis­sioned in 2017 was US$0.05/kWh from hy­dropower, com­pared with US$0.06 for on­shore wind, $0.07 for bioen­ergy and geo­ther­mal projects and $0.10 for util­ity-scale so­lar pho­to­voltaic.

Hy­dro’s LCOE varies re­gion­ally, with 2016-2017 val­ues be­ing $0.04/kWh in Asia, $0.05 in South Amer­ica, $0.06 in North Amer­ica, $0.07 in Africa, Eura­sia and the Mid­dle East, $0.10 in Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean and $0.12 in Europe.

Although elec­tric­ity from hy­dropower is al­ready cheaper than fos­sil fu­els, the re­port in­di­cates costs for other re­new­ables should drop, as tech­nol­ogy im­proves.

“Elec­tric­ity from re­new­ables will soon be con­sis­tently cheaper than from fos­sil fu­els,” the re­port says. “By 2020, all the power gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies that are now in com­mer­cial use will fall within the fos­sil fuel-fired cost range, with most at the lower end or even un­der­cut­ting fos­sil fu­els.”

Its ben­e­fits notwith­stand­ing, hy­dropower de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­ity lags that of other re­new­ables, says IRENA. New ca­pac­ity ad­di­tions of re­new­ables in 2016 was 162GW, com­ing from so­lar pho­to­voltaic (71GW), wind (51GW), hy­dropower (36GW), bioen­ergy (9GW) and con­cen­trat­ing so­lar, geo­ther­mal and ma­rine (1GW).

Hy­dropower “is the largest source of re­new­able elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion to­day,” at 3,996 TWh in 2015, says IRENA in its re­port.

How­ever, its share has been de­clin­ing over time, IRENA, says, with hy­dro ca­pac­ity ac­count­ing for about 75% of the world’s to­tal re­new­able ca­pac­ity in 2010 but only about 50% in 2016. In terms of elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion, hy­dro ac­counted for 81% of all elec­tric­ity from re­new­ables in 2010 but 70% in 2016.

The re­port also ac­knowl­edges the value pumped stor­age hy­dro pro­vides for en­ergy stor­age, with most of the to­tal en­ergy stor­age

Hy­dropower is one of the most flex­i­ble and sus­tain­able re­new­able en­ergy sources [and] can be op­er­ated to pro­vide base-load power, as well as peak-load sup­ply.” Saeed Mo­hammed Al Tayer, DEWA

ca­pac­ity glob­ally pro­vided by pumped stor­age.

“For now, pumped hy­dro is still the only tech­nol­ogy of­fer­ing eco­nom­i­cally vi­able largescale stor­age,” the re­port says. “The im­por­tance of pumped hy­dro stor­age, and in­deed reser­voir hy­dropower, is likely to grow over time as the shift to a truly sus­tain­able elec­tric­ity sec­tor ac­cel­er­ates, not just for the low-cost stor­age it pro­vides, but for the flex­i­bil­ity it brings to in­te­grate high lev­els of vari­able re­new­ables at min­i­mal cost.”

Pumped-stor­age hy­dropower is the old­est en­ergy stor­age tech­nol­ogy. While es­ti­mates in­di­cate that it rep­re­sents 99% of the world’s op­er­a­tional elec­tric­ity stor­age, unutilised hy­dropower po­ten­tial world­wide stands at ap­prox­i­mately 10,000TWh/year [ter­awatt-hours].

World­wide, hy­dropower de­vel­op­ment grew steadily in 2017 with an es­ti­mated 31.5 GW of new ca­pac­ity, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Hy­dropower As­so­ci­a­tion. IHA, in its 2017 Key Trends re­port, says “… this in­cludes 6.4 GW of pumped stor­age, nearly twice the amount in­stalled in 2015, and brings the world’s to­tal in­stalled hy­dro ca­pac­ity to 1,246 GW. To­tal hy­dro gen­er­a­tion for 2016 was es­ti­mated at 4,102 TWh, the great­est ever con­tri­bu­tion from a re­new­able source.”

The lat­est in­for­ma­tion from the Global En­ergy Stor­age Data­base, main­tained by the U.S. De­part­ment of En­ergy’s (DOE) Of­fice of Elec­tric­ity De­liv­ery and En­ergy Re­li­a­bil­ity, says that world­wide,

There are about 352 pumped stor­age projects in op­er­a­tion and be­ing con­structed, which have a to­tal ca­pac­ity of about 183.85GW, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est in­for­ma­tion from the Global En­ergy Stor­age Data­base.

But pumped stor­age hy­dropower re­mains pre­cluded from the broader dis­cus­sion on en­ergy stor­age in many coun­tries due to is­sues such as en­gi­neer­ing de­vel­op­ment cost, cost ver­sus other meth­ods of en­ergy stor­age and long lead time.

“Pumped stor­age hy­dro has been get­ting lit­tle at­ten­tion lately be­cause of the buzz about lithium-ion bat­ter­ies. How­ever, there are sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits from pumped stor­age that are worth re­call­ing,” says Andy Sku­manich, CEO, So­larVi­sion Co. “Given the rapid de­ploy­ment of so­lar and wind world­wide, there is a need for stor­age to mit­i­gate the in­ter­mit­tency of re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tors.”

“Pumped stor­age is an ideal can­di­date for util­ity-scale high power long du­ra­tion ap­pli­ca­tions. One im­por­tant point that is lost is the stor­age does not need to be co-lo­cated with the gen­er­a­tion source. This has of­ten been stated by re­gional power grid op­er­a­tors, and it holds true for most re­gions that al­ready have a trans­mis­sion grid. There is no in­trin­sic ad­van­tage for colo­ca­tion of any co-gen or stor­age el­e­ment with re­new­ables.”

We are closely mon­i­tor­ing the de­vel­op­ment of pumped stor­age and work­ing on prac­ti­cal guid­ance to in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors to bet­ter de­fine the busi­ness case for the tech­nol­ogy.”

Richard Tay­lor, IHA

Within pro­pos­als for pumped stor­age hy­dro, in­dus­try an­a­lysts say that the in­dus­try could do bet­ter in in­form­ing in­vestors, politi­cians and the gen­eral pub­lic that there are new in­no­va­tive ap­proaches to this en­ergy stor­age sys­tem. Pumped stor­age no longer re­quires moun­tains to pro­vide the to­pog­ra­phy.

With this sys­tem as part of an en­ergy port­fo­lio, there is a sub­stan­tial op­por­tu­nity to ex­tend DER and even to de­velop low-cost elec­tric­ity this has high re­li­a­bil­ity and dis­patch­a­bil­ity while still re­main­ing green.

“Pumped stor­age projects could be un­locked through new sources of green fi­nance, in­clud­ing cli­mate bonds,” says Richard Tay­lor, chief ex­ec­u­tive, In­ter­na­tional Hy­dropower As­so­ci­a­tion (IHA), UK. “How­ever, the cur­rent lack of ap­pro­pri­ate el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria means that in­vest­ment is not flow­ing as it should. The over­all car­bon foot­print for pumped stor­age is very com­pet­i­tive, but what is re­quired is clar­ity in the method­ol­ogy to demon­strate this.”

In some ju­ris­dic­tions, there are also reg­u­la­tions that pro­hibit po­ten­tial play­ers from be­com­ing pumped stor­age de­vel­op­ers. For ex­am­ple, there can be bar­ri­ers be­tween a gen­er­a­tion com­pany and a trans­mis­sion com­pany, and pumped stor­age does not eas­ily fit into that ring-fenc­ing.

A pumped stor­age op­er­a­tor may be seen as a con­sumer there to pro­vide grid ser­vices, match sup­ply and de­mand, and ab­sorb sur­plus, and/ or a gen­er­a­tor sell­ing com­pet­i­tively priced peak elec­tric­ity.

“At IHA, we are closely mon­i­tor­ing the de­vel­op­ment of pumped stor­age and work­ing on prac­ti­cal guid­ance to in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors to bet­ter de­fine the busi­ness case for pumped stor­age and build in­vestor con­fi­dence,” says Tay­lor.

Pumped stor­age hy­dro de­vel­op­ment needs al­ter­na­tive tar­iffs and dif­fer­ent forms of rev­enue re­turn, ac­cord­ing to Kevin Young, pres­i­dent, Young En­ergy Ser­vices. He says that it needs to be al­lowed more than one form of re­turn de­pend­ing upon its form of op­er­a­tion and the ben­e­fits it brings to the sys­tem.

“Although util­i­ties say it could be fi­nanced if it could be a reg­u­lated, rather than an un­reg­u­lated, re­source, the re­al­ity is that it needs to be recog­nised as a gen­er­a­tion and trans­mis­sion re­source so it can be a reg­u­lated re­source,” says Young.

“As an in­dus­try, we need to en­cour­age util­i­ties to con­tinue to pro­mote the need for larger scale en­ergy stor­age and not to let the bat­tery folks dom­i­nate the dis­cus­sion.”

IRENA says there are many new ideas on how to ex­pand world­wide pumped stor­age ca­pac­i­ties, one of which in­cludes in­stalling wind tur­bines at ex­ist­ing pumped stor­age fa­cil­i­ties to pro­vide pump­ing power.

The topic of en­ergy stor­age has gained promi­nence in re­cent years, IRENA says, and plays a key role in the de­sign of mod­ern elec­tric­ity grids. IRENA says promis­ing de­vel­op­ments in other en­ergy stor­age tech­nolo­gies may one day chal­lenge pumped stor­age hy­dro’s near-monopoly on low-cost elec­tric­ity stor­age. But for now, pumped hy­dro is still the only tech­nol­ogy of­fer­ing eco­nom­i­cally vi­able large-scale stor­age.

Pumped stor­age is an ideal can­di­date for util­ity-scale high power long du­ra­tion ap­pli­ca­tions. One im­por­tant point that is lost is the stor­age does not need to be co-lo­cated with the gen­er­a­tion source.” Andy Sku­manich, So­larVi­sion Co.

A NEW SOURCE Hy­dropower is one of the most flex­i­ble and sus­tain­able re­new­able en­ergy sources

PUMPED HY­DRO STOR­AGE Grim­sel Pump Stor­age Power Plant in Switzer­land

Pow­er­ing the fu­tureMore hy­dropower projects are be­ing built around the world

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