Europe’s Only Sustainable Energy Transition – POLITICO

The world is at a critical turning point in the fight against climate change, where every decision and contribution counts towards achieving the ambitious but essential goal of climate neutrality by 2050 and limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In light of this well-established fact, hydropower appears to constitute an indispensable and forward-looking solution, as well as the development potential needed to shape Europe’s clean energy future.

According to a recent study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), more efforts are needed, on a global scale, to recognize hydropower plants as the reliable backbone of clean energy systems and support them accordingly.

In the EU, hydropower accounts for 32 percent of renewable electricity generation and provides 12 percent of total electricity in the EU (2) – an important but still underexploited resource, not only in light of the challenges posed by climate change, but Also regarding energy. Security and the increasing need for system flexibility.

1 TWh of flexible hydropower allows for the construction of at least 3.5 TWh of intermittent wind or solar power.

The backbone of a fully carbon-neutral, independent electricity system

The ever-increasing share of solar and wind energy means that it is becoming more difficult for our electricity grid to provide consistent power, especially when intermittent renewable energies experience periods of reduced production.

Tignes Dam, France | Through the European Union Hydropower Alliance

In this endeavor, hydropower holds the answer by providing much-needed flexibility and grid stability to wind and solar startups.

1 TWh of flexible hydropower allows for the construction of at least 3.5 TWh of intermittent wind or solar power.

Given its characteristics, hydropower can help meet the demand for flexibility in two ways. First, by generating electricity in a dispatchable manner to cover demand during peak hours when other renewable energies are not available. River runoff can provide elastic production in the short term and a reservoir can provide the same elastic production over longer periods. Second, by providing electricity storage through pumped-storage power plants.

Today, pumped-stored hydropower provides more than 90% of Europe’s electricity storage capacity.

As such, hydropower facilitates the integration of large amounts of renewable electricity from intermittent sources by providing flexibility over the long, medium and short term, including controllable storage on all these terms.

Today, pumped-stored hydropower provides more than 90% of Europe’s electricity storage capacity.

A local source for energy security in Europe

In today’s turbulent global environment, independence is more than just a precious virtue – it is a necessity. Hydropower embodies this independence. From design to construction, maintenance and operation, everything is done using European technology and know-how. Hydropower relies on a local renewable resource: water. By harnessing the kinetic energy of moving water, its quality or quantity is not compromised. These characteristics make hydropower a central element in achieving climate goals, ensuring energy security, and enhancing the strategic independence of the European Union.

Hydropower generation can be adjusted by opening or closing the “tap” as needed.

The solution to adapt to climate change

Extreme weather events are on the rise, and as well as trying to avoid them, we are collectively determined to deal with them. As a shield against these extreme events, hydropower plays an essential role in water management by regulating water resources during periods of drought and floods, thus mitigating their catastrophic consequences.

Hydropower generation can be adjusted by opening or closing the “tap” as needed.

The presence of dams and reservoirs on the river makes it possible to manage water flow and thus reduce flood levels, as well as mitigate the impact of shortages or droughts.

During the winter, the volume of snow is measured regularly so that the arrival of melt water in the reservoirs can be accurately predicted, and the necessary measures can be implemented in a timely manner. Conversely, in times of drought, hydropower can protect ecosystems and provide water for agriculture, industry and communities.

A mature technology evolves in harmony with its environment

With more than a century of experience in distributed energy systems, hydropower has the advantage of being a mature technology that develops in harmony with its environment. Hydropower experts know how to continuously and significantly improve the condition of natural and aquatic environments, while increasing production.

In recent years, many projects have been launched to restore the ecological status and potential of water bodies, in particular the continuity of rivers or the renaturalization of lands. For example, fish passage systems have been designed and installed on many European dams and rivers. These initiatives identify migration routes and promote the conservation of endangered fish species. In some cases, the generating units in these power plants have been renovated and modernized, including through hybridization with photovoltaics, to make the most of existing infrastructure.

These examples clearly show that increasing renewable energy generation and improving protection of the natural environment go hand in hand when it comes to hydropower.

Decision makers must create an appropriate, reliable and sustainable economic, political and legal framework that values ​​the assets and benefits of hydropower and encourages further investments.

What about improving the European framework for hydropower?

However, long-term political commitment is crucial to encourage the renewal, resupply and construction of new hydropower plants that will be essential for the future energy system and energy transition.

Decision makers must create an appropriate, reliable and sustainable economic, political and legal framework that values ​​the assets and benefits of hydropower and encourages further investments, as happens with other renewable energy resources.

Against this background, the EU Hydropower Alliance was launched on 4 May 2023. Bringing together Europe’s largest hydropower owners and operators, with a total capacity of 111,534 MW, the Alliance’s mission is to promote the role of sustainable hydropower in a clean energy future.

The EU Hydropower Alliance, with support from the European Commission, is organizing its first high-level conference, scheduled for 24 October. This event will be an excellent opportunity for stakeholders at the European level to further discuss how to unlock the potential of hydropower, and its role in addressing environmental and social challenges.


(i) https://www.iea.org/energy-system/renewables/hydroelectricity#tracking

(2) https://energy.ec.europa.eu/topics/renewable-energy/hydropower_en

European Union Hydropower Alliance:
EDF
Eau de parfum
Enel
Engy
Fortum
Iberdrola
State authority
Uniper

Waterfalls
compound

(Tags for translation) Agriculture

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