Ts.Bayarbaatar: Mongolia shouldn’t die of thirst to maintain another country’s lake

Trans. by B.DULGUUN
The following is an interview with Head of the Policy Implementation Department of the Ministry of Energy Ts.Bayarbaatar about various hydro power plant projects that are currently being carried through.
The funding for Eg River Hydro Power Plant project was resolved at the plenary session of the government a month ago. Can you tell us how the project is progressing? 
Eg River Hydro Power Plant is a very significant project for providing Mongolia’s national security, comfortable living conditions for the people, and sustainable conditions for Mongolia’s industrial development and energy sector. We’ve been discussing this since 2005. The project was postponed at the time due to funding issues and tensions within the state. The power plants should’ve been commissioned in 2012. We lost considerable amount of time. We’re not trying to block and stop the flow of water while constructing the power plant. We’re attempting to work on water along the river flow and turn it into a product. In other words, our objective is to turn water into energy before it flows out of Mongolia’s land and border.
Water energy is very cheap. Although the initial cost for construction is high, the price of a kW is cheap. Firstly, inflation rate can be moderated. Mongolia is importing energy at high prices because the variation between the evening workload and the night’s low workload is 300 MW. The price per kW is rising as electricity is distributed for high prices to eliminate this variation gap. The current price per kW of energy is 190 to 200 MNT.
Secondly, Mongolia simply lets water flow away to Russia. Stability of Mongolia’s general and water system will improve and become independent from other countries if we transform water into energy. We’re developing a renewable energy called Wind Park. Wind farms suddenly stop working when there’s no wind. This hydro power plant offsets this issue. A hydro power plant is absolutely crucial as wind farms and hydro power plants operate with adjustment regime to make up for each other’s loss. 
Russians are strongly against the construction of Shuren Hydro Power Plant. Aren’t they cautious because it’s actually harmful to the environment and ecology?
Recently, the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources of Russia visited Mongolia along with 20 representatives, and met with 16 representatives of Mongolia, led by Deputy Minister of Environment and Green Development M.Khurels. Eg River is located in Khuvsgul Lake and Egiin River basin, so it’s under Mongolia’s ownership. Therefore, it means that it’s Mongolia’s issue. It’s completely unrelated to Shuren Hydro Power Plant. The Russian side said that Mongolia doesn’t have legal basis for constructing Shuren Hydro Power Plant and that it’ll negatively impact on the ecological balance of Lake Baikal, which is registered in UNESCO. Mongolia hasn’t actually constructed it yet. The decision to construct the hydro power plant hasn’t been made. We’re only trying to make a feasibility study to see what would happen if it’s built. Whether the hydro power plant is harmful to Baikal Lake, a registered World Heritage, will become definite after the feasibility study and detailed environmental evaluations are made. It’s rather rude to treat Mongolia in this way when nothing has been done. Still, we reached a mutual understanding on this and agreed to exchange information and have a feasibility study made first, and later, introduce it to the Russian side. The government stated to discuss this issue within the scope of what’s been agreed.
Truthfully, Mongolians are people without water. Therefore, our people shouldn’t die of thirst to keep intact and ensure the integrity of another country’s lake. Why can’t we turn our water into a lake and make the environment green? If it’s necessary, we have to use our water sources for drinking water. I consider this treatment from Russia as a blatant attempt to interfere in Mongolia’s internal work. 
What are the expectations for Eg River Hydro Power Plant?
Eg River Hydro Power Plant has a capacity of approximately 270 MWs. We’ve already made feasibility studies and created all conditions for establishing agreements. We’re currently working actively on construction and development after raising investment. Constructing the hydro power plant will become a big booster for the development of Mongolia’s energy system, as well as production. It will open opportunities for developing renewable solar and wind energy, and strive towards green development. It’ll take five years to build.
Also, Mongolians and some NGOs have completely wrong understanding of this issue. They’re all so worried and concerned. Do they want to die of thirst? People come up with unimaginable nonsense and stir trouble. We, Mongolians, must stay together – unified. 
Is it true that Eg River Hydro Power Plant has 20 times the capacity of Durgun and Taishir Hydro Power Plants?
That’s right. Those two power plants have a capacity of 12 MW. A huge uproar was stirred when they were being constructed. Mongolia was experiencing severe drought from 2005 to 2008. At the time, we had Zavkhan River filled with water. Now, a big man-made lake has been created there. Zavkhan River has become such a beautiful lake now. There’s always an obstacle when something is started. Honestly, Govi-Altai and Zavkhan Provinces are alive because of those two power plants. Everyone who visits Zavkhan River is amazed to see what a wonderful development it has become. 
Are Durgun and Taishir Hydro Power Plants able to work at full capacity?
Yes. Out of the 37 MW of electric power supplied from the western region, seven to eight MW is produced by Durgun Hydro Power Plant. In other words, Durgun Hydro Plant is supplying 20 percent of the energy consumption of the western region. Taishir Hydro Power Plant is largely dependent on the water level of Zavkhan River. The lake is filling up well since recent years have had plenty of precipitation. If too much water flows out, the water level of the lake will lower and production will decline. Zavkhan River will face a danger of shrinking if the water level is too low. People and livestock drink from the river, so the ratio is adjusted. Taishir Hydro Power Plant works with a capacity of nine MW when necessary. Normally, it operates with a capacity of four to five MW. 
The government ordered to intensify the construction of Erdeneburen Hydro Power Plant Project at Khovd River. How is this project getting along?
The feasibility study for Erdeneburen Hydro Power Plant was made in 2007. At the time, the estimated cost for constructing a hydro power plant with a capacity of 220 MG at Eg River was 350 million USD. Subsequently, some 290 million USD was estimated for constructing Erdeneburen Hydro Power Plant (67 MW). We halted the project because it was a power plant with low capacity with high costs, and ultimately economically inefficient. A new feasibility was made recently. It was considered that building Erdeneburen Hydro Power Plant would be useful to the local area if the cost is reduced and its capacity is slightly increased. Its capacity has been enhanced to be 87 MW. A while ago, the government discussed this issue and enlisted it in the concession agreement list. Also, a project unit was formed and it was decided that works included in highlighted parts of research works and feasibility studies would be started.
 Is it true that another hydro power plant will be funded by the Turkish government?
Yes. A hydro power plant will be constructed with investments from the Turkish government at Khovd River in Bayan-Ulgii Province. The project unit made feasibility studies and had it approved by our scientific and technological advisory. At Khovd River, one hydro plant will be established in Bayan-Ulgii Province and another in Erdeneburen soum. It doesn’t matter as long as they have sufficient funds. It would be difficult if all these development work leave a huge debt to us and our future generations. The Turkish government said that Mongolia will not have to give money and the hydro power plant will be constructed with a loan. It would be problematic if Mongolia’s debt continues to increase. I’m sure the Mongolian government is thinking of something for resolving this.
Tons of foreigners are attempting to use this time when Mongolia’s facing energy and electricity shortage to come to Mongolia through a  concessional agreement and development work. Yet, the consumption of Mongolia isn’t that high. In other words, Mongolia can carry on until 2030 if we have 1,000 MWs of power. According to the estimations of development works that people want to do, 3,000 to 4,000 MWs will be produced. Ultimately, Mongolia will fall into debt if so many power stations are built without plans and calculations. We need to construct few low-cost power stations in locations that are absolutely in need of energy. 
Source: http://mongolnews.mn/1j3m
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