'Impregilo' Tag Archive

Dec 05 2014

Majority Pushes For Eight New Hydro Power Plant Options


Proposal and lack of due process called “unlawful” and “declaration of war”

Haukur Már Helgason

Last week’s Thursday, the majority of Alþingi’s Industrial Affairs Committee (AIAC) announced its intention to to re-categorize eight sites as “utilizable” options for the construction of hydroelectric power plants. These have until now been categorized, either as for preservation, or as on “standby”. These are categories defined by the Master Plan for nature conservation and utilization of energy resources, as bound by law. The re-categorization would serve as the first legal step towards potential construction.

The proposal had neither been announced on the committee’s schedule, before its introduction, nor introduced in writing beforehand. The committee’s majority gave interested parties a week’s notice to submit comments on the proposal, which is admittedly faster than we managed to report on it.

Reasoning

When asked, by Vísir, why the proposal was made with such haste, without any prior process in the committee or an open, public debate, Jón Gunnarsson, chair of the committee on behalf of the Independence party, replied that “it is simply about time to express the majority’s intention to increase the number of options for utilization.”

The proposal is in accordance with statements made by the Minister of Industry, Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, at Landsvirkjun’s autumn meeting earlier that week, as reported by Kjarninn. In her speech at the occasion the Minister said: “I will speak frankly. I think it is urgent that we move on to new options for energy development, in addition to our current electricity production, whether that is in hydropower, geothermal or wind power. I think there are valid resons to re-categorize more power plant options as utilizable.”

Opposition

As the proposal was introduced to Alþingi, members of the opposition rose against the plans.

Róbert Marshall, Alþingi member in opposition on behalf of Bright Future, has called the lack of process “deadly serious” and “a war declaration against the preservation of nature in the country”. Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, the Left-Greens’ former Financial Minister, concurred, calling the proposal the end of peace over the topic, as did the former Environmental Minister on behalf of the Left-Greens, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, who called the proposal “a determined declaration of war”. Katrín Júlíusdóttir, former Minister of Industry, on behalf of the Social-Democrats’ Coalition commented that the proposal was obviously not a “private jest” of the committee’s chair, but clearly orchestrated by the government as such.

Lilja Rafney Magnúsdóttir, the Left-Greens’ representative in AIAC, and the committee’s vice chair, condemned the proposal. According to her, Minister of the Environment, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, specifically requested fast proposals on these eight options. She says that she considered the data available on all options to be insufficient, except for the potential plant at Hvammur.

That same Thursday, the Icelandic Environment Association (Landvernd), released a statement, opposing the proposal. According to Landvernd’s statement, five of the eight options have were not processed in accordance with law. Landvernd says that the proposal “constitutes a serious breach of attempts to reach a consensus over the utilization of the country’s energy resources.” It furthermore claims that the AIAC’s majority thereby goes against the Master Plan’s intention and main goals.

Landsvernd’s board says that if Alþingi agrees on the proposal, any and all decisions deriving thereof will “constitute a legal offense and should be considered null and void”. Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Landvernd’s manager, has since stated that if the plans will proceed, the high lands of Iceland will become a completely different sort of place.

The Iceland Nature Conservation Association (INCA) also opposes the plans. The association released a statement, pointing out that if current ministers or members of Alþingi oppose the Master Plan legislation, they must propose an amendment to the law, but, until then, adhere to law as it is.

The options

Mid-October, Environmental Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson already proposed re-categorizing one of the eight areas, “the plant option in Hvammur”, as utilizable. This was in accordance with proposals made by AIAC last March. Leaders of the parties in opposition then objected to the decision-making process, saying that such proposals should be processed by Alþingi’s Environmental Committee before being put to vote. The Hvammar plant would produce 20 MW of power.

The other seven options to be re-catogorized are: the lagoon Hágöngulón (two options, totalling 135 MW); Skrokkalda, also related to Hágöngulón (45 MW); the river Hólmsá by Atley (65 MW); lake Hagavatn (20 MW), the waterfall Urriðafoss (140 MW); and Holt (57 MW).

The last two, as well as the plant at Hvammur, would all harvest the river Þjórsá, the country’s longest river. The eight options total at 555 MW.

Backstory: Kárahnjúkar

The latest power plant construction in Iceland took place at Kárahnjúkar. The 690 MW hydropower plant at Kárahnjúkar is the largest of its type in Europe. It fuels Alcoa’s aluminum smelter in Reyðarfjörður. The largest power plant in the country before Kárahnjúkar, was the Búrfell hydropower plant, on-line since 1969, at 270 MW. The Icelandic government and the national power company Landsvirkjun committed to the dam’s construction in 2002, which was concluded in 2008. The total cost of the construction was around USD 1.3 billion. The largest contractor was the Italian firm Impregilo. The construction was heavily contested, for its environmental and economic effects, for the treatment of the workers involved and for a lack of transparency and accountability during the prior decision- and policy-making process.

At least four workers were killed in accidents on site, and scores were injured. “I have worked on dam projects all over the world and no-one has even been killed on any of the schemes. To have this number of incidents on a site is not usual,” commented International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) vice president Dr Andy Hughes at the time.

During the construction, the country saw new kinds of protest actions, involving civil disobedience and direct action, led by the organization Saving Iceland. Andri Snær Magnason’s 2006 book Draumalandið – The Dream Land – contesting Iceland’s energy policies, and calling for a reinvigorated environmentalism, became a bestseller at the time. Ómar Ragnarsson, a beloved entertainer and TV journalist for decades, resigned from his work at State broadcaster RÚV to focus on documenting the environmental effects of the Kárahnjúkar plant and campaigning against further construction on that scale. Read More

Dec 09 2011
4 Comments

Time Has Told: The Kárahnjúkar Dams Disastrous Economical and Environmental Impacts


The profitability of Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national energy company, is way too low. And worst off is the Kárahnjúkar hydro power plant, Europe’s largest dam, the company’s biggest and most expensive construction. Landsvirkjun’s director Hörður Arnarson revealed this during the company’s recent autumn meeting, and blamed the low price of energy sold to large-scale energy consumers, such as Alcoa’s aluminium smelter in Reyðarfjörður, as one of the biggest factors reducing profit.

These news echo the many warnings made by the opponents of the cluster of five dams at Kárahnjúkar and nearby Eyjabakkar, who repeatedly stated that the project’s alleged profitability was nothing but an illusion, but were systematically silenced by Iceland’s authorities.

Now, as these facts finally become established in the media—this time straight from the horse’s mouth—similarly bad news has arrived regarding another big Icelandic energy company. Reykjavík Energy has failed to make a profit from their 2007 and 2008 investments, effectively making them lose money.

At the same time, new research shows that the environmental impacts of the Kárahnjúkar dams are exactly as vast and serious as environmentalists and scientists feared.

And yet, more dams, geothermal power-plants and aluminium smelters are on the drawing table—presented as the only viable way out of the current economic crisis. Read More

Apr 14 2011
4 Comments

Alcoa in Greenland: Empty Promises?


By Miriam Rose

After many years of preparations the Greenlandic government say the final decision on Alcoa’s proposed smelter will be taken at the spring 2012 of the parliament. It is more likely, as the global history of the industry and the evidence in Greenland tells us, that the decision has in fact already been made undemocratically behind closed doors, despite the decreasing support of the Greenlandic people. In fact Alcoa and the Greenland government are so keen on passing the project that they have just hired an eighth employee at their national company Greenland Development- formed to enable the industry to go ahead. Juaaka Lyberth’s explicit remit is to influence public opinion on the smelter through the media. Greenland Development paints a rosy picture of an aluminium future for Greenland, but will their promises of prosperity come true? A comparison to Alcoa’s Fjardaal project in East Iceland suggests that many will not. Read More

Aug 13 2010
1 Comment

Unusually High Rate of Work Related Accidents in Kárahnjúkar


Since 2002, when work began on constructing the Kárahnjúkar dam, which today provides electricity to Alcoa’s aluminum smelter in Reyðarfjörður, until end of the year 2009, 1700 work related injuries have been reported in relation to the dam’s construction. 120 of those injured are still disabled from work, ten of them having irrecoverable injuries – and four workers have died as results of their accidents.

When put into context with work related accidents in the rest of Iceland during that same eight year period, it becomes crystal clear that Kárahnjúkar was by far the single most dangerous workplace in the country. The 120 workers still disabled from work ammount to over 70% of all work related disabilities registered in the period, with eight times as many disabilities spawned from Kárahnjúkar than the rest of the country combined. The four who died as results of their accidents count 15% of all work related deaths in the country for those eight years, but they were 26 in all. Read More

Jul 08 2009

Impregilo Gets Permission to Bury 800 Tons of Rubber


The Italian construction company Impregilo plans to bury machinery, which was used to get stones and gravel up from the inflowing tunnel of the Kárahnjúkar Dam. The conveyer belt, which is about half meter wide, has been rolled in to 200 roles that each weights four tons. In total 800 tons of rubber – about fifty truckloads – will be dug in to the ground in Tjarnalands, Fljótsdalshérað.

After receiving an advice concerning the landfill, the Environment Administration Umhverfisstofnun) decided to stop it for a limited time, while it was researched if this amount of rubber could be buried. The conclusion was that Impregilo is allowed to bury the machinery. Read More

Aug 10 2008
4 Comments

The Camp is Over – The Fight Goes on


Saving Iceland’s fourth action camp is now over but the fight goes on. This year we stayed on Hellisheiði for three weeks, where Reykjavík Energy is expanding their geothermal power plant, first of all to supply energy to aluminium smelters. We enjoyed the summer in this amazing environment which is now in danger because of the construction. This summer we put a special focus on the global impact of aluminium production, how it is does not only effect Iceland, but the whole world; it’s environment, humans and other species. Read More

Jul 24 2008

Saving Iceland Actions in Italy


We just received a letter from our great friends in Italy who decided to join the fight against heavy industry. Their target was Impregilo which is ,,an old well-known leader in capitalist destruction of earth”. Impregilo is a Italian company who took part in the destruction of the Kárahnjúkar area in the east of Iceland, when a huge dam was built to power an Alcoa’s aluminium smelter in Reyðarfjörður.

Monday July 21st, a demonstration took place in front of the Icelandic embassy in Rome and the next day, two protests happened by the headquarters of Impregilo in Sesto San Giovanni near Milan and by the Icelandic Consulate in Milan. Read More

Apr 10 2008

Last Tunnel Drilled For Kárahnjúkar Dam


The giant drill which has been used to drill afflux tunnels at Kárahnjúkar dam, in Iceland’s eastern highlands, was turned off yesterday after it broke through the last hindrance in Jökulsárgöng tunnel. Read More

Mar 28 2008

Cost of Karahnjukar Far Exceeds Estimates


I’ts official: the cost estimates of Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company, for Karahnjukar were false and the numerous economists and even the National Planning Agency, who criticized Landsvirkjun for massaging their economic data were dead right. The new cost estimate for Kárahnjúkar was presented by Minister of Industry Össur Skarphedinsson at the Althingi parliament yesterday.

According to Skarphedinsson the total cost of constructing the dams and the hydropower plant at Fljotsdalur has exceeded estimates by ISK 17.7 billion (USD 264 million, EUR 172 million) and is now expected to amount to ISK 133.3 billion (USD 2.0 billion, EUR 1.3 billion). MP for the Left-Greens Álfheidur Ingadóttir said until yesterday people had not been aware of by how much cost estimates were exceeded. Ingadóttir criticized the minister for not taking the cost of agreements with contractors into account. She argued that by including such agreements the original cost estimate is exceeded by an even higher amount, ISK 32.5 billion (USD 484 million, EUR 315 million).

Read More

Jan 07 2008

‘Concerning the Fundamental Values of Society’ by Miriam Rose


A talk which opened a panel discussion at the ‘Reykjavikur Akademia’ with the topic ‘What are the Fundamental Values of Society’ 20 November 2007. Panelists included Reykjavik Chief of Police Stefán Eiríksson, historian and Left Green MP Guðfríður Lilja Grétarsdóttir and philosopher Viðar Thorsteinsson.

For those of you who don’t already know me, my name is Miriam Rose, and I am an activist and environmental scientist from the UK. I have been asked to speak today on my experience of the basic values of Icelandic society, based on an interview I did on Kastljos in October, after I was threatened with deportation from Iceland for my part in actions against the heavy industry policy of your government. The letter of requested deportation which I received explained that I may be expelled from Iceland for a minimum of three years as my behavior constitutes a ‘threat to the fundamental values of society’.
Read More