The Power of Hydro

Article from Revolve magazine (source)

Despite the rise of Asian hydro equipment companies, the top three equipment suppliers to hydro power plants are based in Europe. Alstom, Andritz Hydro and Voith comprise over 50% of the world market, according to Christine van Oldeneel, Managing Director of the Hydro Equipment Association (HEA), and invest around €150 million per year on research and development across Europe.

Emmanuel Branche from EDF claims there remains 47% of untapped hydropower potential around Europe. The potential is therefore enormous considering that hydro has the highest electricity efficiency rate and the highest energy payback ratio with the most efficient storage technology and a very low carbon footprint on land and water.

However, many improvements can still be made. Investing in hydro requires long-term vision and high capital with the knowledge that there will be a late payback. Mr. Branche encourages the long permit granting procedure to be simplified and to harmonize the grid fees for pumped storage in different countries across Europe. He also stresses that it is now important to move from renewable to sustainable hydropower.


And there are important environmental considerations to address and to improve. Sergey Moroz, Freshwater Policy Officer at WWF, affirms that 40% of rivers are affected in Europe. When badly designed, badly managed or badly placed, dams can have negative impacts on nature, as described in the 2013 WWF report: Seven Sins of Dam Building

Just as some rivers are the wrong rivers to build dams on, so some hydropower plants may not be sustainably placed. He advises to use the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocoldeveloped by a multi-stakeholder body.

Olivier Teller from Alstom presented the HEA Technology Roadmap. This document offers five solutions for hydro generation to improve further its contribution to the European goals and targets. They include ways to increase the plant flexibility and the renewable energy generation from hydro and also the ability to maximize the environmentally-friendly deployment of hydro for fish to pass through turbines without danger and the development of oil-free turbines such as the Kaplan turbine.

Mr. Teller also recommends improving calculations for more precise testing to increase hydroelectricity production and to raise the capacity of pumped hydro storage. Double grid fees should be removed to encourage greater financing of innovation. On the transnational European level, more small hydropower can be developed and generated on grids. These recommendations are detailed in the technology roadmap that HEA will soon release.

For the time being, however, there is “no proper policy for hydro” in the European Union, confirms Clementine Lallier from DG Energy at the European Commission. “Renewables will become the core of Europe’s energy mix,” she says and hydro will play a prominent role due to the quick reaction time, the storage capacity and the potential for grid stability.

Supported by Intelligent Energy Europe, a European Commission funding mechanism, at the small hydropower level, the Renewable Energy Sources Transforming our Regions (RESTOR) Hydro is renovating and repowering abandoned sites to again generate hydroelectricity through local cooperatives. The European Small Hydropower Association (ESHA) coordinates the implementation and collection of data for 50,000 potential sites within European Member States. The project was launched in June 2012 with a budget of €2.5 million.


A fascinating dimension of the RESTOR Hydro project is the mapping of historical water wheels and mills that have fallen out of operation. This exercise enables the restoration of hydropower heritage and opens the door for small and micro hydropower to participate once again in providing energy; with 350,000 old sites within the EU-27, the impact could be very significant.

Compared to large hydro projects, RESTOR Hydro is rather small. The European Investment Bank (EIB) lent over €400 million to hydropower projects in 2012, which pales in comparison to over €800 million for offshore wind in Europe. Investing in a sustainable future will mean more financing for renewables in general, and for hydro in particular to become more innovative and more environmentally-friendly.

Writer: Stuart Reigeluth is Founding Editor of Revolve.

Launch of United Nation’s first World SHP report – October 2013

United nations first world SHP report Between 29-31 October 2013 at the University of Campinas, Brazil the UNIDO organised the 6th Hydro Power for Today Forum & 3rd  Technical Workshop of the Observatory High-level Congress and Workshop, which was attended by around 200 delegates. During this Forum, UNIDO has launched the WORLD SHP Report. Its European contribution was based on the findings of the European SHP Roadmap, co-financed through IEE’s STREAM MAP project, which have been also mentioned in this UN publication. UNIDO, Ministry officials and large delegations from Latin America and China did listen to the key note speech, Martina Steinkusz gave to around 200 delegates that focused on the ‘Trends, Challenges and Solutions in the Development of SHP in the EU’. Especially the part on RESTOR Hydro gave impetus the attendees who are currently in the development of similar SHP financing solutions.

RESTOR Hydro present at largest European hydropower event – October 2013

R Hydro present at largest European hydropower eventThe trade fair and congress HYDRO, organised by the professional magazine Hydropower & Dams, is an established event which every year gathers the European hydropower sector. HYDRO 2013 was held in Innsbruck between 7 and 9 October and attracted 1400 delegates attending the various sessions that deal with hydropower. In the small hydropower session which focused on global aspects of SHP development, Bryan Leyland gave a keynote address on small hydro engineering practice. One of the speakers of this session was Martina Steinkusz from the European Small Hydropower Association who spoke about the RESTOR Hydro project. She highlighted the unexploited small and micro hydro potential of Europe, and how this project promotes in particular the concept of restoring disused water wheels and mill sites.

North America getting to know RESTOR Hydro – July 2013

Each year, the Hydrovision Congress and Trade Fair agglomerate around 3,200 hydropower stakeholders from North America.  On 23/07/2013, in the name of ESHA, Christine Lins, former Secretary General, has been invited to speak in the Opening Session’s roundtable discussion of the 2013 event in Denver, USA (Colorado Convention Centre).  Influential representatives of five hydropower industry associations from throughout the world provided their perspectives on the future direction of hydropower and how they are actively supporting the industry. As a European solution for hydropower development Christine Lins did present the RESTOR Hydro project.

International Energy Agency and ESHA exchange on RESTOR Hydro – June 2013

The IEA Hydropower Implementation Agreement (HIA) Annex II, a subgroup of the International Energy Agency, met with ESHA on 27/06/2013 in Brussels, Belgium (Renewable Energy House) in order to consolidate and disseminate knowledge pertaining to the topic of small and micro hydropower policy developments in Europe as well as successful case studies, including those of rehabilitating SHP plants. Dirk Hendricks presented the RESTOR Hydro project to around the delegation from the IEA delegation from Canada, Norway and Japan.

High-level policy event on hydropower financing – June 2013

High-level policy event on hydropower financing

During the yearly European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), ESHA, together with the Hydro Equipment Association and EURLECTRIC organised a High-Level Policy event with the title ‘Hydropower – investing in a sustainable future’ in Brussels, Belgium at the Committee of the Regions on 25/06/2013.  The aim was to provide an overview of the investment situation for hydropower projects and to inform the attendees about different European and global approaches on which funding possibilities can be still exploited. ESHA President Marko Gospodjinacki was chairing the session. Amongst the speakers was Noémie Laumont (EDORA) who presented the RESTOR Hydro project to about 60 high-level stakeholders (EU, industry, banks, etc.).

RESTOR Hydro in the spotlight of high-level EU representatives – February 2013

Hydropower’s promising and multifunctional role as an enabler of the energy transition is insufficiently understood by European policymakers as a strategic technology.  Therefore, on 19/02/2013, in Brussels, Belgium (Marriott Hotel) the EURELECTRIC conference “Hydropower: a European asset” held in Brussels, Belgium (Marriott Hotel) set the stage on this key topic. Which regulatory framework is needed? What can be done to raise the profile of hydropower in Europe? Dirk Hendricks from ESHA presented in front of 80 high-level representatives from the European institutions and industry. Within his presentation ‘Sustainable Solution for Climate Change Views from ESHA’ the RESTOR Hydro project has been one of the key topics.

Discussion on small and medium-sized small hydropower enterprises in the EU – November 2012

Discussion on small and medium-sized small hydropower enterprises in the EU

SMEs are the backbone of the European economy as it is especially them that create sustainable jobs, growth and prosperity. In this sense, SME Europe (Small and Medium Entrepreneurs of Europe) organised the Hydropower Energy – Supply for a Future Europe discussion, organised on 28/11/12 in Brussels, Belgium, at the European Parliament Paul Rübig MEP, EP Committee on Industry, Research and Energy hosted and moderated the meeting. As the  website of SME Europe reads ‘the event ended with an interesting question and answers session and the presentation of a Small Hydropower Roadmap (SHP) providing a status report on energy, market and policy situation concerning SHP in each of the 27 EU member states by Martina Steinkusz, Communication Manager from the European Small Hydropower Association (ESHA). This document and a free database (HYDI) have been created in the framework of the Stream Map project, co-funded by the IEE programme of the European Commission.’ She further explained to the audience of around 50 people from EU institutions and industry that the HYDI database is being continuously used and updated within the framework of the RESTOR Hydro project and further shared some details about it.

Turkey getting to know RESTOR Hydro – October 2012

Turkey getting to know RESTOR Hydro The Energy and Congress Fair and Energy Investment Forum is a yearly event which presents the current affairs of the Turkish energy market in Ankara, Turkey (Congresium Ankara). During its 2012 edition, on 05/10/12, a session ‘Hydroelectric Power Plant Investments and Technologies’ gave the floor to Turkish and European stakeholders to present the current (small) hydropower projects in Turkey and policy issues affecting hydropower development. Martina Steinkusz from ESHA gave a presentation on ‘Small Hydropower in the EU’ to an audience of around 200 people. The mainly Turkish audience had the opportunity to receive information on the different SHP funding and investment possibilities in and from the EU, amongst them was case study of RESTOR Hydro.