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China-ASEAN Clean Energy Capacity Building Programme 2022: Exchange Project on Sustainable Hydropower Development

04 January 2023

Online, 28 December 2022

The 5th China-ASEAN Clean Energy Capacity Building Programme was conducted on 28 November 2022 with the theme of Exchange Project on Sustainable Hydropower Development. Held by ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute (CREEI) under the guidance of the National Energy Administration of China and Ministry of Mines and Energy of Cambodia, this activity aimed to foster experience exchanges on clean energy development and help ASEAN Member States (AMS) achieve the renewable energy goals, particularly by utilising hydropower energy potential in ASEAN.

Was opened by some remarks from highly respectable people of hydropower’s key stakeholders in ASEAN and China, the event was able to attract 210 participants , from online and offline, and was deemed a success through its fruitful discussion it became. These highly respectable individuals were H.E. Victor Jona (Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Mines and Energy of Cambodia), Ms. Wei Xiaowei (Director General of the Department of International Cooperation, National Energy Administration, China),  Mr. Li An (Minister-Counselor from the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to ASEAN), Mr. Tang Jie (Practice Manager of the Energy and Extractive Global Practice, World Bank), Dr. Nuki Agya Utama (Executive Director of ACE) and Dr. Li Sheng (Director General of CREEI). With all agreeing on the importance of hydropower energy development in the ASEAN energy landscape, the creation of making the field more environmentally friendly, economically guaranteed, and socially benefitting local people around hydropower site areas is becoming crucial. However, Mr. Tang warned that realising the significant improvement in clean energy alternatives in ASEAN-China, an investment of USD 8 trillion is needed just to curtail the heavy reliance on coal and an additional USD 3 trillion for accelerating power sector decarbonisation.

The event continued with two keynote presentations from Ms. Rebecca Ellis, Energy Policy Manager of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and Dr. Zheng Sheng’an, Secretary-General of China Society for Hydropower Engineering (CSHE). In Ms. Rebecca’s session, she emphasised the importance of modernising hydropower instalments since most global installed capacity is over 30 years old. Moreover, based on a recent study from Australian National University, there are 600,000 hydro sites globally with 23,000 TWh of storage potential. Through this, she encouraged all stakeholders to incorporate more pumped storage to give higher benefits for the clean energy transition. These include bridging intermittency problems of renewable energies, stabilising the power grid, reducing the need for fossil power plants, as well as providing black start capability to restore power after a blackout. Next, Dr. Zheng shared the practice of developing sustainable hydropower in China, including some regulations that govern the safety, environmental, and social impact issues regarding hydropower development as well as the lifecycle management and technical standard in the field. As the biggest player with 363 GW of installed hydropower capacity and 43 GW of pumped storage, some of China’s endeavours on environment management and suppressing social impact are conducting routine ecological assessments, establishing fish crossing facilities, and organising community and labour training.

In the next agenda, the capacity building progressed with three discussion topics on environmental protection and social safeguard, community development, and dam safety management sequentially. In total, nine hydropower experts and specialists gave presentations on all topics.

The first topic was moderated by Ms. Ngoc Huong Giang Vu (Associate Research Analyst of ACE) and presented by Mr. Xue Lianfang (Deputy Chief Engineer and Director of CREEI) and Ms. He Xueying from Hydro Power Lower Sesan 2 Co., Ltd. In Mr. Xue’s talk, he explained the rationale for building 54 monitoring stations for hydropower instalments in the upper reaches of Yellow river, China. These include monitoring and predicting reservoir water inflow/outflow rate and recording and warning about seismic activity near the instalment. The monitoring system’s output helps produce reports and disseminate information to the public using websites and software application platforms. Meanwhile, Ms. He shared her practical experience in fulfilling social responsibilities for Hydro Power Lower Sesan 2 Co., Ltd., the longest hydropower plant in Asia, which produces 20% of Cambodia’s total installed power capacity. For this purpose, her company manages to build communal infrastructures such as roads and bridges, promote agricultural development in the nearby area, and fund fish and environmental protection.

Then, in the second discussion topic, Mr. Peeti Ngamprapasom, Sustainable Hydropower Specialist from the Mekong River Commission, detailed the social risk mitigation strategies for hydropower practices in Lower Mekong Basin. A special focus was given from the early stage of the project on this issue, with eligible parties being communities residing alongside the upstream and downstream hydropower sites. Benefit Sharing Mechanism (BSM) is used instead of a one-off compensation payment and is done by distributing some portion of monetary benefits that hydropower plants generate to the government. The money is then relocated to development budgets for infrastructure, training, and capacity building on municipal, district, or province levels where the project is located. Particularly in Thailand, the beneficiaries include communities within a maximum of 5 km from hydropower sites. To compare, experience from China was also discussed by Ms. Liu Yuying, Associate Director of CREEI and Professor Shi Guoqing, Deputy Director of CSHE RRC They mentioned that in China, community development is pursued by four consecutive endeavours. These are improving livelihood, such as by rebuilding houses, building public infrastructures, integrating community and governance, as well as improving rights. These actions result in better community livelihood after the construction of hydropower, which can be seen by the increase in the number of cultural and educational facilities and medical facilities from 26% and 16% to 55% and 38%, respectively. On the other side, a global view was given by Dr. Satoshi Ishihara, Senior Social Development of the World Bank. He reminded that livelihoods are multi-faceted and not just about restoring productive assets or money in hand, but rather a rarely smooth process. The affected people are often heterogeneous, with different needs, constraints, and aspirations. Then, continuous monitoring and adaptation are needed to support the right people at the time. One good example can be seen in the expansion of Theun-Hinboun hydropower in Lao PDR. In this project, additional programs beyond obligations are given to local communities, which include agricultural subsidies for electricity or fuel costs and an annual budget of USD 240,000 for community development to cover 43 projects for 30,000 beneficiary villagers.

On the last sharing session, Ms. Chiara D’Adamo, Energy Data and Policy Analyst of the International Energy Agency (IEA), supported the takeaway message from Ms. Rebecca on modernising hydropower facilities due to the higher vulnerability of old infrastructures to current and future climate impacts, such as heavier rainfall, wildfires, and more tropical cyclones. Moreover, she suggested integrating natural hazards as one of key factors when planning a refurbishment or even building new transmission and distribution systems since the changing global temperature reduces network efficiency. Regarding this, practices from China were given by Dr. Zhou Xingbo, Deputy Division Director of CREEI and Mr. Xu Xinfeng, Division Director of the Department of Electric Power Safety Regulation, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA). The hydropower dams in China are under the supervision of NEA throughout the lifecycle. In the planning and construction stages, the projects need to go through the technical reviews of CREEI, including the examination of the pre-feasibility study report, feasibility study report, and specialised checks, such as closure check and impoundment check. There are also monitoring mechanisms for operational dams, including dam safety registration and and regular checks. To date, there are 603 dams registered in categories. The categorisation or A/B/C categories are based on the healthiness level of the dam. The renewal can be proposed every five years for category A and three years for categories B and C. Furthermore, the technical approach was also explained by Dr. Zhou Xingbo, which includes safety design planning on determining freeboard distance, flood control standard, as well as assessing seismic activity near the dam area.

Finally, a panel discussion was conducted and led by Ms. Monika Merdekawati, Research Analyst from ACE. Panelists who joined the conversation, including Professor Chen Shaojun (Deputy Director of the National Research Center on Resettlement (NRCR)) as well as all respectable speakers from previous sessions, did not only answer critical questions from moderator and participants, but also agree on doing necessary mitigation actions from planning, designing, construction, to operation stage to make hydropower energy becomes truly green.

As continuation of the hydropower capacity building 2022 event, site visit to Lower Sesan II Hydropower Dam in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia will be conducted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Cambodia and co-organised by ACE and CREEI from 13-16 December 2022. To learn more about the hydropower capacity building event and the site visit, kindly visit further links down below.

  1. Virtual China-ASEAN Clean Energy Capacity Building Programme 2022: Exchange Project on Sustainable Hydropower Development:
  • Recording: here
  • Presentation materials: here
  1. Site visit to Lower Sesan II Hydropower Project in Strueng Treng Province, Cambodia: