Harmful small hydropower projects lose ground in Romania and Ukraine
Civil society involvement led to the exclusion of Romanian small hydropower projects from EU funding until 2020. The new partnership agreement between Romania and the European Commission and the Operational Programme Large Infrastructure, which deals with investments in transport, environment, energy and climate change, do not support small hydropower.
“In 2013, a national campaign 'Mountain rivers: the last chance' of WWF-Romania mobilized associations of fishermen, researchers, academics and ecotourism groups across the country - 20,000 Romanian nature lovers signed the petition to stop the approval of small hydropower sites under existing laws,” says Andrei Moarcas from WWF-Romania.
As a result, the authorities temporarily suspended the approval process and created a joint working group of government and civil society experts to develop a set of additional criteria for the development of hydropower. The government also promised to assign “no-go” areas at national level, where small hydropower could not be built or would be very restricted.
WWF-Romania, in collaboration with other NGOs, has already submitted a proposal for the criteria but the process is stuck at the moment.
Meanwhile, the national parliament of Ukraine adopted a law that abolished the preferential taxes of small renewable energy producers. The large tax breaks and the expensive "green" tariff allowed some businesses to violate environmental regulations in protected areas and in the last naturally flowing rivers.
The developers could easily pay off fines with their huge profits and continue their destructive activities. In particular, such cases were recorded in the Verkhovynskyi County (rayion) (Goloshynska hydropower plant) and in Khustskyi County (Nizhniy Bystryi hydropower plant).
"Unfortunately, Ukraine is only now beginning to consider the environmental effects of renewable energy. Now the industry is mainly monopolized and corrupt. Most businesses are primarily interested in super profits, artificially created by the state. They do not implement measures to ensure the conservation of river ecosystems.
The law doesn’t put an end to renewable energy. It only helps to avoid excessive profits for dishonest businessmen, who can buy off the environmental legislation and still get high profits. To save the most valuable small rivers of the Carpathians and other regions of Ukraine, the government should identify where the construction of hydropower should be completely banned.
"The 'green' electricity tariff should include environmental criteria. Hydropower in protected areas and in high nature value rivers inhabited by species from the Red List, should not be part of it,” explains Anatoliy Pavelko, project officer on hydropower issues of WWF in Ukraine.
Bulgaria also has issues with small hydropower and the future economic plans for previously untouched rivers. That’s why WWF starts a campaign later this week to save the last free flowing rivers of the country.