He Ministry of Economyheaded by Sergio Massa, ratifies that the dam concessions will return to the hands of the State, after 30 years under private management. This is how it was expressed in the budget bill, which was sent to Congress. In addition, he details that there will be a new state company to manage the hydroelectric plants. Crossings continue between the Treasury Palace and the provincial governments, which demand tripartite management and the payment of a fee.
When dam concessions were granted to the private sector in 1993 for a period of 30 years, probably no one imagined that the expiration of that long period would fall in the middle of the most uncertain electoral process of the 21st century. It is that he August 11 concessions began to expire: There were three on that date, there is another that expires on December 29, and there are 22 in total, which have different deadlines in 2024.
Given this context, in June of this year, the Secretary of Energy, Flavia Royón, left a written note of instruction to Agustín Gerez, president of Energía Argentina (formerly Enarsa), in which he asked him to take charge of the dams. The letter requested: “Adopt the necessary measures to be in a position to temporarily assume the activity of electric power generationgiven the proximity of the expiration of the concessions”.
In fact, since 2022, the Government created what it called the Concessioned Hydroelectric Uses Work Team (Etahc) to prepare a report that details the status of each concession, which refers to technical, economic, legal and environmental aspects. In addition to the Ministry of Energy, Enarsa and the state-owned Impsa were in charge.
However, in July This year, just a month after Royón’s request to Gerez, another destination was established for hydroelectric plants: through a resolution in the Official Gazette, Economy decided to extend the concessions for “another 60 calendar days”extendable for 60 calendar days, without prejudice to the power of the Secretariat to extend it up to the maximum period established in the contracts.”
The initial 60-day extension means that the hydroelectric complex remains in the hands of the same private concessions until October 10, just 12 days before the general elections.. And if it was finally decided to extend them for another 60 days, the new deadline would be December 9, one day before the change of government.
In that last resolution, Royón ordered that Enarsa act as overseer during that period, and summoned the provinces of Río Negro and Neuquén to “propose a representative to collaborate, together with the Ministry of Economy, during the process.”
Finally, the latest information on the future of the dams was written in the budget bill, which was entered as established by regulations on September 15, although official sources anticipate that it will be discussed in Congress after the elections.
Article 78 of the law budget establishes: “Upon completion of the hydroelectric concessions under national jurisdiction, the administration, operation and exploitation of each of the hydroelectric uses granted in concession will be assumed by ENERGÍAS HIDROELÉCTRICAS SAU, dependent on ENERGÍA ARGENTINA SA (EASA) with the objective of ensuring the full operation of the plants, the continuity of the services and the correct functioning of the facilities, without prejudice to the possible responsibilities for the obligations assumed by the current concessionaires.
Therefore, it not only ratifies the return of concessions to the State, but also establishes the creation of a new company called Hydroelectric Energies SAU, which depends on Enarsa, which “will be able to market the electrical energy produced by them”, and the “carry out complementary activities that are necessary such as studies, projects, constructions, renovations and expansions of the assets reverted to the National State.”
The grants expiring this year are Alicurá, from AES Alicurá SA; El Chocón and Arroyito, from ENEL Generación; Planicie and Banderita, from Orazul Energy; and Piedra del Águila, from Central Puerto. The latter is the only one that ends in December, the others in August. However, these dams are the first five of a total of 22 hydroelectric complexes that will expire.
In any case, due to the deadlines in which these expirations fell, in Economy admit that the future of concessions “depends on politics”, that is, what happens in the next elections. There are different views among the provincial governments, and also in the coalitions that compete in October. This week, the main energy advisor of Javier Milei, candidate of La Libertad Avanza, arrived in the country. This is the consultant Eduardo Rodríguez Chirillo, who lives in Spain, to whom energy companies are eager to listen.