Wednesday, December 1

The Government is investigating whether Iberdrola has exceeded the discharge limits in Ricobayo

Meeting of the Secretary of State for Medio Abntación, Hugo Morán, with mayors affected by the descent of the Ricobayo reservoir.  |  Jose Luis Fernandez

Meeting of the Secretary of State for Medio Abntación, Hugo Morán, with mayors affected by the descent of the Ricobayo reservoir. | Jose Luis Fernandez

“The hydroelectric concessions they also have to adapt to climate change. All economic uses have to attend to this reality ”. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Hugo Morán, yesterday made it abundantly clear that the increase in temperatures, the alteration of rain patterns and, in short, the lower availability of water predicted by all medium and long-term scenarios, will affect the uses in the different hydrographic basins and the rights of exploitation and use of an increasingly scarce resource.

He put it like this in front of a delegation of Zamorano mayors representing all the municipalities affected by the drastic emptying of the Ricobayo reservoir which has left the bowl at levels of 11% of its capacity. This situation has led to the opening of an information file by the Duero Hydrographic Confederation to determine whether Iberdrola, the concessionaire company for the exploitation of the Ricobayo reservoir, has exceeded the limits of discharge for turbination that are allowed. “If it is established that there has been a malpractice, the corresponding sanctioning mechanism will be set in motion,” said the Secretary of State for the Environment. “In our opinion, there have been levels of exploitation that are higher than what would be recommended at this time. What common sense recommends when dealing with a public resource as sensitive as water has been exceeded ”.

“Environmental attack”

Demonstrations received with relief by some mayors who denounce “a unprecedented environmental attack ”the words of Javier Aguado, councilor of San Cebrián de Castro. Along these lines, Hugo Morán considered that of the mayors and in general the Zamora society a “just claim” although “it is not an exclusive situation of this territory”. He pointed out that in recent weeks there have been problems in several reservoirs in the country due to an electricity production “above what is usual at this time.”

The senior position of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge influenced the influence of climate change on the concession conditions of reservoirs, as is the case of Ricobayo dating from the 30s of the last century, when “the concept of environmental management was far from being the current one ”, and whose validity expires in 2039 after an extension approved in 1993. Morán specified that“ in general, the State is proposing the rescue of the concessions that are viable, at the end of the periods ”. In fact, the Duero Hydrographic Confederation manages three reservoirs that were reverted to public ownership when the concession ended.

Morán explained to the mayors that the third cycle hydrological planning designed by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge for the 2022-2027 period, it includes measures for adaptation to climate change and environmental management criteria for each demarcation. The new river basin management plans – approved by the Council of Ministers in June – are in the public consultation phase until December 31st. “Climate change will condition the management capacity and the environmental criteria must be substantially reinforced with respect to the consideration they had in the current plans,” said Morán.

The Secretary of State for the Environment invited city councils to present contributions and incorporate them into the basin plans. “This is the time to incorporate new guarantees and ecological limits of minimum flows to all water bodies to meet the reality of climate change and scenarios of reduction of water availability in Spain, higher than 15% in the medium term and between the 35 and 40% in a long-term horizon ”. Morán stressed that, whatever the clauses established in the hydroelectric concessions in force, they will also be subject to the greater or lesser availability of water at all times. It will be that availability – he insisted – that determines the economic use of reservoirs in Spain. “We cannot rely on concessionary rights issued decades ago”, when the climate crisis did not appear on the horizon, or in hydrological planning policies.

The Ricobayo reservoir under minimums in the Manzanal bridge area. / JOSÉ LUIS FERNÁNDEZ

The Secretary of State announced in September a meeting promoted by the Ministry with representatives of the Federation of Associations and Municipalities with hydroelectric plants and concessionaires to study possible preventive measures for episodes such as Ricobayo in the entire national system of reservoirs for hydroelectric use, and even an eventual revision of the Water Law.

The meeting at the Government sub-delegation was attended by the Government delegate in Castilla y León, Javier Izquierdo, the sub-delegate in Zamora, Ángel Blanco, and the president of the Duero Hydrographic Confederation, Cristina Danés. Also the mayors of Muelas del Pan, Luis Alberto Miguel; Palacios, Lucía Perchero; Carbajales de Alba, Roberto Fuentes; San Pedro de la Nave– Almendra, Braulio Prieto; Andavías, Antonio Iglesias; and the 3rd vice president of the Federation of Associations and Municipalities with hydroelectric plants and the mayor of San Cebrián de Castro, Javier Aguado.

Iberdrola: “the exploitation is carried out in coordination with the competent authorities”

The exploitation of reservoirs, in accordance with the needs of the system, “it is always carried out in contact and coordination with the competent authorities,” he specified. Iberdrola after the opening of an information file was made public. The exploitation of the reservoirs is carried out “following all the established environmental conditions. The monitoring of water quality parameters is permanent at all times of the year and, even so, in recent months quality controls have been strengthened. No extraordinary measure has been necessary as no parameter has been detected with unusual values ​​”.

The hydroelectric plant assures that “Ricobayo has not been emptied, but that it is fulfilling its function at the most necessary moment: to produce energy to supply demand and to displace the most expensive technologies in shaping the price of electricity.” Iberdrola points out that Ricobayo “in a typical year, fills up with rains to later generate energy in the dry season, whenever it is required and when it is most useful for the system.” None of the other reservoirs of the Duero axis it has regulation capacity. The company specifies that the percentages “sometimes do not show the reality: Ricobayo, with the current level, has more volume of dammed water than Aldedávila and exceeds what is stored by the other two Zamorano reservoirs of the Duero together, Villalcampo and Castro ”.

The CHD “records real-time information from all reservoirs on different operating parameters. Some related to water quality and others to operating variables, including the level of the reservoir ”. Iberdrola specifies that Ricobayo’s management “is also attending to the only supply concession of which we have been informed, as is the case of Bread millstones, with whose mayor we are in permanent contact and coordination. We are aware of the context but the exploitation is taking place within the established ranges and normally. On many occasions similar and even lower levels have been recorded in Ricobayo; up to eight in the last 25 years ”.

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