Hydro disaster spells big costs for RusHydro and energy consumers

The disaster at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydro-power plantin East Siberia may have serious implications for several industries. Electricity prices are expected to jump while Rusal may have to cut its output.

One of the worst technological disasters in modern Russia – that’s how experts dub the accident at Russia’s largest hydro power plant in Siberia.

12 people were killed with more than 60 missing. Electricity prices in the region have already jumped five fold on the spot market causing Prime Minister Putin to order a thorough look at the implications.

“I have ordered a legal analysis of the situation and offer proposals on prices and tariffs due to the state of emergency in the region.”

Russia’s Energy Minister said electricity prices in Siberia could anyway rise by about 7% with more expensive coal fired power stations increasing production.

Aluminium producer, Rusal, could be among the companies hit hardest by the price rise. Dmitry Skryabin, Head of Power and Utilities at VTB Capital says output may be at risk.

“For an aluminium producer the price of electricity is crucial for margins, for profitability. And of course, consuming electricity from coal fired power plants is not feasible from an economic point of view, and because of that they will have to limit production.”

The owner of the power-plant – RusHydro lost 7% of its capitalization in the hour after the accident. Its shares are now suspended.

Dmitry Konovalov, Energy analyst at Unicredit Securities says the company will now have to spend over a billion dollars on repairs.

"We estimate the cost -and this is very very general, a preliminary estimate – anywhere between half a billion to one and a half billion dollars. Part of the funds might come from reserve funds and emergency funds. We know that RusHydro didn’t pay any dividends and put the money in the reserve fund, and also it had a pretty good 2008. If there is still a problem and more funds are needed, the debt position of RusHydro is very strong and they should have no problem borrowing the money to fix the Sayano-Shushenskaya.”

Analysts say the accident will change Russia’s energy balance, boosting coal at the expense of water. One positive outcome – Rusal and Rushydro had for months disagreed over the financing of Siberia’s new hydro-power plant Boguchaskaya. Now there's pressure to launch it as soon as possible.