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Argentina’s Energy Dream Carried by A Hydropower Project
Date:2021-10-21 Font size:[ L M S ]

It was 7.30 a.m., before the sun had fully risen on the southern tip of South America, Argentine Mariano Musso drove to the dam construction site of the  kise Hydropower Station on the Santa Cruz River. It was a bumpy ride to work, but he was in a good mood because he knew he was contributing to Argentina’s energy dream.

The Santa Cruz River originates from one of the only three glaciers in the world whose total area is still growing- the Moreno Glacier. Generating electricity from the Santa Cruz River has been a dream of Argentines for more than half a century. Studies dating back to the 1950s indicated that the river has very stable hydroelectric conditions. But due to various constraints, this dream is yet to be realized.

In 2013, the consortium formed by CGGC and Argentine companies won the bid for the  kise Hydropower Station, which gave Argentines new hope to realize their dream.

In July 2014, the two countries signed the financing agreement for the  kise Hydropower Station, marking the official start of implementation of the largest water conservancy project in Argentina's history.

However, for project participants like Musso, the real test has just begun. The Santa Cruz River is located in the Patagonia plateau of Argentina, where it is cold all year round, and when the wind blows, it is difficult for people to just stand still.

“Windproof coats, sunglasses and hard hats are necessary”, said Musso, who is now the project’s public relations manager. “Climate is definitely a challenge for the project construction. Due to the topography, wind speeds at the construction site can sometimes exceed 100 kilometers per hour, and extreme low temperatures can make the construction quite difficult, but the Project is still proceeding in an organized manner”.

Energy shortages have long hobbled Argentina’s economy. In his congratulatory letter to the “Belt and Road” Energy Ministers’ Meeting and the International Forum on Energy Change in October 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that energy cooperation is a key area of the “Belt and Road” cooperation. We are ready to step up energy cooperation with other countries under the framework of the “Belt and Road” Initiative to create favorable conditions for common development, jointly promote sustainable global energy development and safeguard global energy security.

The  kise Hydropower Station, the southernmost hydropower project in the world, illustrates the cooperation connotation of the “Belt and Road” Initiative. After completion, the hydropower station will generate 4.95 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is expected to meet the daily power consumption of 1.5 million Argentine households, and save nearly USD1.1 billion oil and gas import expenditure for Argentina every year. It could even enable Argentina to export electricity to neighboring countries such as Brazil and Paraguay.

However, it is never easy to realize a beautiful dream, and there are still some difficulties in the implementation of the Project. More than 100 kilometers away from the construction site of kise Hydropower Station is the Moreno Glacier, and the protection of the surrounding ecological environment has become an important subject for the design and implementation of the Project. With rich experience and advanced technology, Chinese engineers have made design arrangements in environmental and ecological protection and building safety, so as to avoid the impact of project construction on local ecological environment.

Zhang Hong, Deputy Director of the Design and Management Department of the Project Department of Argentina’s kise Hydropower Station of CGGC, once told reporters that to avoid affecting the Moreno Glacier, the dam’s impounding height was 2.4 meters lower than the original plan. At the same time, the hydropower station was also designed with the fishway and the ecological drainage bottom hole to meet the requirements of environmental protection.

In addition to alleviating Argentina’s energy shortage, the kise Hydropower Station has also made tangible contributions to creating jobs and improving people’s livelihood.

Musso said there are now about 2,800 people working on the Project, which would create 5,000 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs at the peak of construction. “We built roads to make traffic smooth, and we built the villages where the project workers can live better lives… It was like we have built a small, fully serviced town”.

In 2020, the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has brought huge challenges to the project construction.

During the pandemic, Musso also served as the epidemic supervision coordinator, responsible for coordinating the return quarantine and nucleic acid testing of personnel, and communicating with local medical institutions on the donation of epidemic prevention materials and the exchange of experience in epidemic prevention. China’s anti-epidemic experience has inspired Musso a lot, and he worked closely with his Chinese colleagues to bring the epidemic under control. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, the Project did not stop work during the pandemic.

In 2020, Musso was excited to be nominated and awarded the honorary title of China's first “Silk Road Friendship Messenger”. As head of public relations, Musso has maintained good communication and interaction with the Argentine government, media and related institutions. He said that it is also his duty and aspiration to better introduce the “Belt and Road” Initiative to all circles in Argentina.

“The ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative is essential for local development, and it has brought tangible benefits to Argentina. The ‘Belt and Road’ cooperation between China and Argentina has driven local infrastructure construction, and has had a very positive impact on both Argentina and Latin America.” Musso said.

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