2015 – The hydropower dam lenders’ technical advisor – roles, responsibilities and lessons learned

Andrew Noble

This paper explores the role of the Lenders’ Technical Advisor (LTA) in identifying and mitigating risks in hydropower dam projects on behalf of the project lenders. It describes the LTA services that are required to manage the pre-financial close, construction and financing periods.
There are differing types of risk in both large and small hydropower projects (contractual, commercial, participant, completion, country, technology, reputational, environmental and social, etc.) and these are discussed with regard to how the lenders may be exposed if the risk eventuates either during dam construction or in operation.
Whereas a large dam for water supply would in its own right be a major project, the dam(s) associated with large hydropower will likely represent less than 25% of the total project cost and with this imbalance comes competing drivers for the other components (tunnels, waterways, powerhouse, M&E equipment, transmission lines, substations, etc).
The paper discusses the typical process whereby a hydropower developer has procured a feasibility study and is working towards financial close — covering both large and small types, i.e. storage dams and run-of-river diversion weir types, and the noticeable trend for fast-tracked developments to make a single large step from feasibility study through to engineer-procure-construct (EPC) contracting. This scenario presents some challenges for the initial due diligence when assessing in the pre-financial close stage.
The paper draws on case studies from the Asia Pacific region to illustrate the key elements in hydropower project financing from the LTA’s perspective, together with the author’s recent and current experience on multiple hydropower projects across Asia and Africa in the run-of-river, storage reservoir and pumped storage type of plants. It also brings together findings from the author’s own recent papers on the subjects of hydropower feasibility studies, the roles of lenders, owners and advisors, and tailored for an ANCOLD audience where the focus is on the dams component of hydropower.
Keywords: Lenders’ Technical Advisor, Dams, Hydropower.

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