OPPOSITION to the La Merced de Jondachi Hydro Project
The ERI uses objective criteria to evaluate hydroelectric projects on an individual basis, and supports the responsible development of hydroelectric projects which demonstrate sound planning, decision-making and best management practices.
The ERI promotes the optimization of existing hydroelectric schemes and the strategic development of hydroelectric projects on rivers of low resource quality that are already intervened, impacted, contaminated, and close to the population centers which drive the demand for electricity, and in places which do not conflict with existing river uses.
The ERI opposes the development of the La Merced de Jondachi hydroelectric project because it is a high cost, high risk project of very little merit, which offers minimal benefits for electricity generation, and will eliminate one of the best whitewater paddling destinations in Ecuador, as well as a sustainable tourism-based economy. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of better hydroelectric project alternatives in the country, as well as other renewable energy options.
Here is a brief summary of our specific concerns about this poorly conceived hydroelectric scheme and why it is not viable:
- The project developer has never developed and operated a hydroelectric project.
- The project developer has lost credibility by presenting different information about the hydro project in its application to receive carbon credits from the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism at the international level compared to the information presented to obtain permits from government agencies in Ecuador.
- No hydrologic data exists from the Jondachi River to adequately design this project.
- In the 10 years, which the project developer claims to be evaluating the project, it has never installed a stream gauge on the Jondachi River to monitor flow data.
- The run-of-river project depends on the available flow in the Jondachi River to generate electricity, and has no water storage or regulating capacity to compensate for periods of low flows.
- Meanwhile, the project has been designed to operate at full capacity using a median-annual flow statistic that was interpolated from historic flow data of questionable quality from other rivers, and is not representative of the low flows that are normally observed and maintained in the river.
- Since the project is over-dimensioned with respect to the available flow in the river, the project will not produce its expected benefits and will be a losing investment. A profit-loss analysis of the project by the ERI has shown that under normal operating conditions, the project will not be able to pay the interest on the debt incurred for building the project.
- The project proposes an antiquated, river-wide, cement diversion dam structure with inadequate considerations for fish passage no considerations for recreational users.
- The project will de-water and effectively eliminate whitewater paddling on the world-famous Upper Jondachi River, which draws tourists from many countries to Ecuador and contributes over USD $ 1 million dollars to the local economy each year.
- The project has not made adequate considerations for instream environmental flows, has not considered recreational uses, and the project developer denies that the Jondachi River is a tourism destination.
- The project components are located in areas with very unfavorable geotechnical conditions and poor geologic stability, which require costly measures to mitigate, making the project more expensive to build.
- Some of the project components invade the right-of-way of an existing oil pipeline, which could impose additional costs and risks for the project, raising the price tag on the project even higher.
- Compared to 8 hydro projects currently being constructed in the country, the La Merced de Jondachi hydro project would be the most expensive hydroelectric project in Ecuador per megawatt of installed capacity. There are numerous hydroelectric projects available for development throughout Ecuador which would deliver greater benefits with far less investment.