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The role that can be played by water in the generation of clean energy is not to be underestimated. Within that role, hydropower is vital. I spoke to Lauha Fried, a Policy Officer with the European Small Hydropower Association.

Can hydropower play a significant role in preventing or slowing the pace of climate change by generating clean energy?

Hydropower plays an important role with about 70 % of EU’s renewable energy being generated by hydroelectric sources, and of this about 90 % is from large-scale schemes. While large hydro generates 550 TWh per year from about 180 GW of installed capacity; more than 21 000 small hydropower installations generate over 46 TWh of electricity per year in the EU-27. Small hydro alone is enough to supply electricity for over 13 million households and contributes to annual avoidance of CO2 by 29 million tons, which translates into annual avoided CO2 cost of about 766 million euros. ESHA estimates the growth potential of SHP at 1.75% per year, which could result in 54.7 TWh of power produced in 2020.

With the increased global electricity demand, urgent need to cut down greenhouse gases and fight against climate change and environmental degradation from fossil fuel use, the only way to move away is to switch from fossil fuel based energy to renewables together with energy efficiency measures. This is also enables the use of local energy sources, which means shorter transport distances and reduced energy transmission losses. It enhances local and regional energy independence and gives a boost for local economy by creating new jobs income.

Is hydropower something that can realistically be scaled up to meet the needs of modern, electricity hungry communities?

Hydropower is one of the most reliable and cost-efficient way of producing renewable energy. The potential for small hydropower in Europe both from upgrading and from building new schemes is considerable, accounting up to additional 38,000 GWh in the EU-27. This potential is defined as additional or remaining economically feasible potential, where the environmental constraints have been taken into account.

Hydropower concept is designed in a way that it can immediately respond to fluctuations in electricity demand meeting both base-load and peak-load demand. Therefore, it plays an important role in stabilizing the electricity grid and ensuring energy security in a world that is going towards increasing amounts of intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar and development of smart grid.

Are EU governments doing enough to use hydropower? What more could they do?

The key barriers for small hydropower development in the EU are linked to:

1) Costly, complicated, very long and non-transparent administrative procedures in obtaining licenses.

2) Non-balanced implementation of the Water Framework and RES Directives and lack of integrated approach on achieving the best solutions for European energy and environmental policy.

3) Huge potential remains untapped in upgrading and repowering thousands of abandoned and old sites in the EU. An estimation of 30 TWh could be achieved with refurbishing old sites resulting to increased energy production at the same time improving ecological conditions and contributing to reaching the 2020 targets. This also the creation of attractive recreational areas bringing income for local economies or historically or culturally significant sites can be renovated by a hydro project. This has so far been largely ignored in many of the EU Member States.

4) Multipurpose plants offer many possibilities; here hydropower production is combined with other applications such as drinking water supply systems, irrigation channels, flood control and protection or waste water treatment plants. Here the existing infrastructure is used thus resulting to increased efficiency and electricity production as well as improved environmental performance.

What is the role of you and your organisation in making this real?

ESHA (European Small Hydropower Association) is an umbrella organization for the promotion of small hydropower in Europe. ESHA wants to use synergies at the European, national and local level in order to develop the SHP sector. ESHA is structured as a federation of EU national hydropower associations and gathers members from all sectors involved in small hydropower, such as equipment manufacturers, producers, research institutions, investors, industry and consultants.

ESHA has as its goal to raise the awareness and the interests of the small hydropower sector at European level in order to:

1) Guarantee the representation of the sector at EU level

2) Improve the market conditions of the SHP industry

3) Increase the electricity production from SHP Remove any barrier to further SHP development in the EU

Our role is also to inform decision-makers at European, national and local levels about the benefits of small hydro technology and seek for synergies for collaboration with wide range of stakeholders. We want to transfer knowledge of the technology to show how the sector is constantly evolving and offers multiple opportunities for win-win outcomes for both energy production and for the environment.

Thank you Lauha.

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