03 Feb 14
Romania Suspends Hydropower Projects in Protected Areas
The Romanian authorities said that from now on, they want investors in hydropower projects to comply with EU environmental standards.
The planned construction in Romania of hundreds of small-scale hydropower stations across the Carpathian mountains has been put under tighter control, while the building of new plants in protected areas has been forbidden, officials said.
“We don’t want to block any project, but only to introduce tighter controls on investors, who have to comply with EU standards on the environment,” said Water and Forests Minister Lucia Varga.
“Only the construction of new hydropower projects in protected areas is now forbidden starting from February,” Varga added.
Starting from early 2012, officials approved the construction of around 730 hydropower units of up to 10 megawatts each, most sited on the ridge of Romania’s southern Carpathian mountains. Around half of them are in the final phases of construction.
But activists say they have a negative impact on the environment and will do little to help Romania meets its green energy needs.
The construction frenzy is backed by generous subsidies from the European Union and with poor oversight from the Romanian authorities, the environmentalists argue.
“We are supporting green energy, but some projects are affecting streams which have a real ecological value. We cannot destroy them for the sake of immediate profit,” said Magor Csibi, director of the World Wildlife Fund in Romania.
Small-scale hydropower projects generally do not involve the construction of a dam. Instead, part of the flow is diverted through a large pipe, up to 1.2 metres in diameter, to a downstream turbine that generates the electricity.
In normal conditions this should not have a major impact on the environment. But media reports have suggested that in many cases, the pipes have been installed in the bed of the river, instead of parallel to the stream or above it, which may affect the direction of the water and disrupt aquatic life.
Romania has pledged to increase the proportion of electricity it generates from renewable resources to 35 per cent by 2015, and to 38 per cent by 2020.
The country has also to replace 5,000 megawatts of conventional energy, and new generation capacities need to be created.
Investors are attracted by small hydropower developments because such plants can respond to fluctuations in electricity demand, unlike wind farms cannot. http://www.balkaninsight.com/en