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Save The Mekong Coalition Statement For The 23rd MRC Council Meeting.

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Merchants on the Mekong River by -JvL - via flickr

In line with the 23rd Mekong River Commission (MRC) council meeting, the Save the Mekong Coalition raises concerns over hydropower projects.

The Save the Mekong Coalition notes with serious concern the ongoing development of hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream, despite unresolved issues over transboundary and cumulative impacts of projects already under construction and a breakdown in shared regional decision-making. we are further concerned about the status of the MRC Council Study, intended to inform decisions regarding development on the Mekong River, and request information on the status of the study, as well as of the review of the 1995 Mekong Agreement’s Procedures by the MRC’s Joint Platform.

The decision-making processes for the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, now under construction on the Mekong mainstream in Lao PDR, ignited significant controversy within the Mekong region and internationally. Requests for information and concerns over project impacts expressed during the Prior Consultation procedures were not formally addressed, including calls for extension of the consultation period, thorough baseline information, and studies of transboundary impacts. Both projects proceeded despite the absence of agreement or resolution of concerns within the MRC’s Joint Committee and Council.

The Xayaburi Dam is reportedly 70% complete. Yet, despite repeated requests by Development Partners, the full design of the dam has still not been made public, nor is there evidence demonstrating the project’s compliance with the MRC’s ‘Preliminary Design Guidance for Proposed Mainstream Dams’. No information has been shared regarding resolution of the concerns and requests for further studies raised by the Governments of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam over the Don Sahong Dam, while project construction has forged ahead.

As a result of the Prior Consultation process for the Xayaburi Dam and recognition of the importance of the Mekong River, an agreement was made at the December 2011 MRC Council meeting to conduct a study on sustainable development and management of the Mekong, including the impacts from the Lower Mekong mainstream dams (the ‘Council Study’). The Council Study was identified as a priority area of action by Mekong Leaders in the Ho Chi Minh City Declaration at the second Mekong Summit in 2014, who called for the implementation of the study to be expedited “to provide sound advice and recommendations on sustainable development in the Basin.” However, the study has faced repeated delays and there has been limited disclosure of information to and consultations with the public on the Council Study’s findings and status. Priority must be given to completion of the Council Study to inform decision-making, together with the results of the Mekong Delta Study commissioned by the Vietnamese Government and completed earlier this year.

This month, the government of Laos notified the MRC of its intention to construct a third dam on the Mekong mainstream, the Pak Beng Dam in Oudomxay Province. The MRC Secretariat has indicated that the notification will again trigger the Prior Consultation process. While the MRC has committed to a review of the procedures, including implementation of the Prior Consultation process, through the Joint Platform, there is limited information about the status of this process or how it will inform the procedure for future projects.

It is critical that Mekong Governments learn from the experiences of hydropower projects already under construction on the Mekong River, and use these lessons to inform how future decisions over the shared river are made. Before procedures are launched that will advance further projects, irreversibly transforming the Mekong’s ecology and destroying its ecosystem services, the MRC must prioritize organizational reform and clearly articulate a vision for the future role of the institution and the 1995 Mekong Agreement, with the support and agreement of Mekong people.

Ongoing developments in international law, and within the region, should be reflected and adapted in the institutional arrangements for the Mekong River. This includes the principles articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UNWC), to which Vietnam is a party, and requirements for transboundary environmental impact assessment for projects with transboundary effects. Mekong governments should further identify ways to ensure that the objective of promoting the sustainable management and conservation of the Mekong River Basin informs rather than remains side-lined from broader regional processes with an important bearing on decisions over the basin’s future, such as intra-regional integration through the ASEAN Community pillars.

At the 22nd MRC Council meeting held in January, Member Countries addressed the impacts of climate change on the Mekong River, and the additional efforts needed to identify solutions for sustainable management of the river. To address the impacts of climate change and work towards a climate resilient future, it is imperative for Mekong Governments to acknowledge the transboundary impacts of hydropower projects on the Mekong River and their contribution to the drastic changes already occurring, including drought, water level fluctuations, decline in fish stocks and loss of agricultural productivity. Decision-makers in the Mekong must recognize the fundamental role of a healthy Mekong River in the region’s resilience and adaptation to climate change.

The Mekong River is a vital shared resource for the region. There is an urgent need for change in the decision-making processes that are informing hydropower development in the Mekong Basin to ensure a sustainable future for the river and her people.

We call on the Mekong governments and the Mekong River Commission to:

• Prioritize participation and consultation on the Council Study, expedite completion of the Council Study and disseminate ongoing results to the public, ensuring that these findings and those of the Mekong Delta Study inform further decision affecting the future of the river;
• Prioritize organizational reform, including an assessment of the future of the MRC and the 1995 Agreement, with participation by the public and Mekong communities. The Mekong Agreement and procedures must be transparently reviewed and adapted in
• Halt further decision-making over Mekong mainstream dams, until such a time as decisions can be informed by and based upon meaningful consultation, particularly with local project-affected communities, and sound basin-wide studies which consider the transboundary and cumulative impacts of mainstream dams.

Energy

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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