Outlook: Hydropower in Europe: Current Status, Future Opportunities

By Marla J. Barnes

By 2020, a fifth of all energy consumption in European Union (EU) member countries must come from renewable sources – hydro, wave, solar, wind, and biomass. This mandate, which EU leaders signed in March 2007, is part of a proposal designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent (compared with 1990 levels).

For hydroelectric power, this mandate translates to significant growth in development of new capacity and in upgrading of existing facilities throughout Europe.

Several new conventional hydroelectric projects entered commercial operation in the past few months … something not seen in several decades. Examples of new projects include: Sonna in Norway (270 MW), Glendoe in the United Kingdom (100 MW), and Blanca in Slovenia (42.5 MW).

For small hydro (less than 10 MW), development opportunities are significant. Provided the mandate by EU member countries is implemented on a timely basis, the European Small Hydropower Association (ESHA) estimates that installed small hydro capacity could reach 16,000 MW by 2020 – a more than 4,000-MW increase over current levels.

Another area of significant growth for the hydropower sector in Europe, especially in the central region of the continent, is in pumped storage. In addition to supplying additional electricity during times when demand for power is highest, pumped storage’s ability to balance power production and regulate the transmission network, in light of increased use of intermittent renewables, particularly wind, is attractive.

As many as ten pumped-storage facilities are under construction, including 178-MW Avce in Slovenia, 540-MW Kopswerk 2 in Austria, 480-MW Limberg 2 in Austria, and 141-MW Nestil in Switzerland. Several more potential projects are being investigated.

Europe also is an established leader in research and development of new technologies – ocean, wave, and hydrokinetic. Thirty years ago, the United Kingdom had the most aggressive wave power research and development program in the world. This commitment to research and development, as well as to commercialization of new designs, continues today throughout Europe.

Installed hydropower in Europe totals approximately 179,000 MW. European countries with the largest amounts of hydro include France, Italy, Norway, and Spain. Maintaining and, in many cases, upgrading, this existing infrastructure continues to be an important focus throughout Europe.

The emphasis in Western Europe is retrofitting hydro plants with modern equipment, usually upgrading the capacity of the plant. In Eastern Europe, the focus is rehabilitating aging plants that often were allowed to deteriorate during the era of the Soviet Union.

Numerous utilities are committing significant resources to upgrade entire portfolios. For example, here in France, national utility Electricite de France (EDF) is investing more than 2 billion euros (US$2.5 billion) as part of France’s economic stimulus program, including spending on modernization of hydroelectric projects. In recent months, EDF has issued several solicitations for hydropower equipment and other work for its many projects, including up to 50 turbine-generators over five years.

– Editors of HRW magazine and HydroWorld.com continually track European project construction and rehabilitation progress. To regularly follow hydropower development and rehabilitation activity, bookmark www.hydroworld.com.


Marla Barnes is Publisher, Hydro Group, for PennWell Corporation


Previous articleCanadian Hydropower Association names new president
Next articleHRW Volume 17 Issue 3

No posts to display