Small hydroelectric plants (SHP) have been conceived in Argentina as part of the strategy to address climate change under Nationally Appropriated Mitigation Actions (NAMA), which form part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The IDB, together with the Government of the Province of Salta, and the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, developed a proposal for NAMA related to SHP. It is part of a representative sample of SHP in the Province of Salta that frame actions related to SHP in a national response strategy for climate change and eventually prepare the required background to access international funding.
There are very few NAMA with this technology, and existing ones are not focused exclusively on SHP. The present NAMA proposal determines the expected reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the use of this technology, as well as the costs associated with such uses.
This study includes: (i) an estimate of GHG mitigation potential and the cost of SHP at provincial and national levels; (ii) a descriptive analysis of the institutional context related to the preparation and presentation of NAMA in Argentina; and (iii) a study of the potential benefits of developing SHP at both the theoretical and empirical level, focusing on the province of Salta. A preliminary proposal for NAMAs was suggested by the UNFCCC to enter it into the developed International Register format. The 3 main findings of this study are:
- Savings and costs. With SHP, significant reductions in greenhouse gases are achieved as compared to commonly used alternatives like generation with oil derivatives. The study also verifies that the average economic cost of generation is less than what is referenced, although nationally its range varies significantly.
- Institutions. The configuration process of NAMA as an international instrument is not finished. The pace of development of the legal structure and the national regulatory framework should be established in parallel with requirements that are in accordance with the international system. It should ensure that the institutions that finally emerge have mechanisms for measuring, reporting, and verifying that are complete, accurate and reliable, so that the emission reductions achieved from the NAMA proposals can be recorded and duly registered.
- Benefits of SHP. In addition to its social character and possible savings, many SHP help facilitate the substitution of biomass for electricity in cooking and heating, allow access to modern energy services, and make possible the supply of drinking water and irrigation and facilitate flood control. They also will contribute to the settlement of native peoples who, lacking electricity, remain in a semi-nomadic state.
The construction and rehabilitation of SHP allow progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals by facilitating the implementation of productive enterprises and employment generation. They also result in the consequent improvement of income and quality of life for rural populations, thereby curbing rural migration.
It is expected that the environmental impacts of SHP are minimal, since it is run-of-the-river (ROR) that will be used. They will only absorb a small fraction of the flow of rivers that feed them without building dams or cutting flows through the channels, thus avoiding affecting the surrounding flora and fauna.