European Union sees small hydro opportunities

A report on European small hydro finds plenty of development opportunities throughout Europe, especially with the recent addition of 10 members to the European Union (EU).

The European Small Hydropower Association (ESHA) helped coordinate preparation of State of the Art of Small Hydropower in EU-25, a 20-page publication focusing on market development, policy issues, and industry status in the 25-member EU and three candidate-member nations.

The report was developed through the Thematic Network on Small Hydropower, a project funded by the EU and the Swiss government. The thematic network includes ten partners: ADEME and SCPTCH of France, EPFL-LCH and MhyLab of Switzerland, Studio Frosio of Italy, KT of Austria, SERO of Sweden, ISET of Germany, IT Power of the United Kingdom, and the Lithuanian Hydropower Association.

ESHA says enlargement of the European Union provides an opportunity to transfer small hydropower development experience to new member states. Small hydropower has a huge potential in those countries, where it is the dominant renewable energy source, ESHA said.

Eight eastern European and two Mediterranean countries joined the EU in May 2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Three more nations, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey, are expected to join.

According to the report, small hydropower accounts for about 4.6 percent of total hydro generation in the new EU members and candidate countries. The remaining economically feasible potential amounts to 30.9 terrawatt-hours per year in the new member states and 5.6 TWh/year in the three candidate countries. About 80 percent of this potential is in Turkey, according to the report.

Much of the small hydro potential throughout Europe involves low-head plants and refurbishment of existing sites.

Report: Development conditions should be improved

The report said small hydropower offers a practical and immediate route to expanding renewable energy sources in Europe while strengthening the export ability of Europe’s small hydro manufacturing industry. However, the report said official support for the technology is limited and framework conditions should be improved.

The report calls for EU member states to develop energy policies that include development of small hydro and that governments should establish equitable environmental assessment procedures with predictable and reasonable schedules.

The report also calls on developers to eliminate environmentally and socially unacceptable schemes early in planning, improve environmental management of plants, and share benefits of small hydro with local communities.

The report may be obtained at no charge on ESHA’s Internet site,, under Publications.

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