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Hydropower Dissemination Event: “Hydropower, a catalyst for the energy transition in Europe”

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On the 22nd of September, over 100 people (30 participants in person and 70 online) attended the special one-day Hydropower Dissemination Event in series with HydroES 2021, organised by Société Hydrotechnique de France (SHF), and in the framework of the EU Sustainable Energy Week 2021 (EUSEW), with the title: “Hydropower, a catalyst for the energy transition in Europe”.

This event was divided into four sessions, where the conclusions of the last two years of consultations of Hydropower Europe Forum were presented. This gave us an overview of the current status of the sector and the challenges forward.

Patrick Clerens from EASE opened the event and introduced the topics of the event, which aimed to understand the priorities of the sector.

Main findings:

SESSION 1: Challenges of Hydropower in Europe Today

  • Thomas Schleker, European Commission: Goals and new calls of Hydropower R&I funding: the European viewpoint

Mr Schleker stressed the importance of having innovative technology in hydropower to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. That is, the development of technology that can make economically feasible and sustainable the hydropower production. He also commented on the new Horizon Europe programmes, which will maintain the structure of those in Horizon2020. 

Hydropower is a long-term commitment that comes with a wide range of challenges. To name a couple: the continuation of research and industry value chains and the need of a global cooperation of sustainable hydropower.

  • Anton Schleiss, ICOLD/ EPFL: The Situation for Hydropower use and potential in Europe

Mr Schleiss made us an overview of the capability of hydropower in Europe, which showed that here is still margin for development. He explained that we have only used about two thirds of the technical potential of hydropower and that there are some disparities within European countries. For example, Nordic countries only are responsible for 46% of the European hydropower generation; or Albania, that has 99.6% of its electricity based on hydropower.

  • Alex Campbell, International Hydropower Association (IHA): Hydropower as the key for the Green Deal in Europe and Worldwide

Mr Campbell was clear: “we need to decarbonise power if we want to stop climate change”. In this sense, he explained how hydropower’s role will shift increasingly to flexibility, as it is “the largest source of flexible electricity generation”. To finalise, he went in line with the previous speaker: he stated that hydropower has a big capacity of modernisation because, despite the latest developments, remains an old technology.

SESSION 2: Needs for research and development - The Research & Innovation Agenda (RIA)

  • Anton Schleiss, ICOLD/ EPFL: Hydropower in Europe in a complex world - A complex system analysis approach

Dr Schleiss, using its vast experience in the hydropower sector, guided us through the maze of how very diverse factors can interact and affect the development of the industry. 

  • Mario Bachhiesl, VGB, and Patrick Clerens, EASE: Methodology for the prioritization of research themes and strategic activities - wider stakeholder consultations approach

This tandem talked about the importance of the “Research and Innovation Agenda” (RIA) and the “Strategic Industry Roadmap” (SIR). They stressed that these documents serve as a tracking tool for all the developments in the sector. This way, researchers can continue the investigations based on those documents. “We need to keep RIA and SIR alive in order to allow more research in the future”, said Mr Clerens.

  • Ingo Ball, WIP Renewable Energies: The Research and Innovation Agenda for Hydropower in Europe

Mr Ball emphasised the decisive role of hydropower, the largest source of renewable energy, in the fight against climate change. Multi-purpose storage power plants and reservoirs will become vital for the mitigation of climate change consequences like floods or draughts. In order to achieve this, he appealed the engagement of all relevant stakeholders to address the challenges in the sector.

  •  Antonio Jarquin Laguna, TU Delft: Low-head hydropower advances within the ALPHEUS project

ALPHEUS is a multimillion project funded by the European Union that seeks to improve the turbine technology, making pumped hydro storage financially sustainable in shallow seas and flat geographical areas of less than 20 meters (hence, low -head hydropower). Mr Jarquin Laguna presented us some practical examples of this technology and how the team is working with the model they have built at the university.

SESSION 3: Supporting industry – Strategic Industry Roadmap (SIR)

  • Jean Louis Drommi, EDF: Flexibility in Power Systems

Flexibility is the capacity of the electric system to respond to changes that may affect the balance between supply and demand at all times. According to energy forecasts, Mr Drommi said, by 2030, the flexibility of hydropower shall support a share of renewable energy up to 27%; and by 2050, it could go up to a 64%.

  • Dirk Hendricks, EREF: Opportunities for the EU small hydropower sector under the EU Green Deal

Mr Hendricks explained how small hydropower (SHP) can have a much bigger role than just producing energy. To name a few: can act as supply in times of water shortage, multipurpose when Climate Change consequences strike (flood protection, draught mitigation, etc.), bring environmental benefits (such as, create additional habitats, clean rivers from floating waste, enrich water with oxygen, etc.) or plainly, as a tool to save costs (e.g., Germany avoided circa EUR 1bn for grid stability thanks to this). Despite the potential advantages, he said, there are more than a few challenges and contradictions at a policy-making and operational levels.

SESSION 4: The future of the Hydropower Europe Forum

  • Greg Arrowsmith, EUREC and Maria Laura Trifiletti, ZABALA: The European Technology Innovation Platform role in the EU

They explained that the despite that at the beginning it may not seem like that, EU’s funding for the management of a European Technology & Innovation Platforms (ETIP) buys transparency and representativity. It is interesting as well that the organisation receiving the funds does not manage the ETIP. Ms Trifiletti stated: "ETIPs are essential to foster a coordinated approach to research and innovation within the European #energy sector so that #EU Member states can meet #Fitfor55 climate targets"

Closing remarks

Dr Anton Schleiss had the responsibility to make some final remarks:

  •  Hydropower has still a big potential and room for development that needs to be turned into reality, otherwise, hydropower will not be the catalyst for energy transition.
  • The hydropower sector also needs some strategic actions, which are not only recommendations for the European Commission, but for the whole industry in order to be heard. Hydropower needs to communicate that it is essential for energy transition.
  •  The industry needs to unify a permanent voice in Europe, which is important also worldwide, since European hydropower companies are working everywhere in the World.

> LAST DAYS TO REGISTER! HYDROPOWER EUROPE Forum Dissemination Event in series with the HydroES 2021 conference in Lyon

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The HYDROPOWER EUROPE project is built on the ambition to achieve a research and innovation agenda and a strategic industry roadmap for the hydropower sector, based on the synthesis of technical fora and transparent public debates through a forum that gathers all relevant stakeholders of the hydropower sector. Following this vision over the past 2 years, the HYDROPOWER EUROPE Forum has been created to facilitate communication with all stakeholders within the European hydropower sector. The Forum now comprises nearly 600 different representatives and has been active in helping to develop the hydropower research and innovation agenda and strategic industry roadmap.

A special one-day session will be held – in series with the HydroES 2021 conference in Lyon - to introduce the conclusions from this extensive programme of consultation and planning. Participation in this day event is free, whether online or in person.

The HydroES 2021 hybrid conference runs from 22-24th September 2021, will present the progress of scientific research and technical innovations aimed at better understanding and overcoming these issues. Participation to this event can be either online or in person at ENS, Lyon.

See here for full programme details

22nd September 2021 - HYDROPOWER EUROPE Dissemination Event

Introducing the conclusions from the HYDROPOWER EUROPE Forum’s extensive programme of consultation and planning.

Session 1:     Challenges for hydropower in Europe today
Session 2:     Needs for research and development – The Research and Innovation Agenda (RIA)
Session 3:     Supporting Industry – Strategic Industry Roadmap (SIR)
Session 4:     The future of the Hydropower Europe Forum

Registration is free but mandatory. Register HERE

23rd - 24th September 2021 - HydroES 2021 Conference Days

Sessions about the business issues of hydroelectricity in general and small hydroelectricity in particular: 

  • Optimization of operating and maintenance tools
  • Hydroelectricity and climate change
  • Environment and society
  • Hydropower, innovation and intermittent renewable energy services 

Details about registration and payment HERE 


Joint event EERA JP HYDRO and HYDROPOWER “Sustainability and the acceptability of hydropower as part of the clean energy transition”

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*Recording of the webinar below*

On the 2nd of September, over 60 participants attended the webinar: “Sustainability and the acceptability of hydropower as part of the clean energy transition” hosted jointly with EERA JP HYDRO and HYDROPOWER EUROPE.

The event, organised on the framework of the European Sustainable Energy Week 2021 (EUSEW21), counted on four experts who shed some light on the socioeconomic and ecological consequences of hydropower, and how they can be mitigated to achieve the full potential that hydropower can reach to in the clean energy transition.

Anton Schleiss, honorary president of ICOLD and professor emeritus at EPFL, opened the session and introduced the main topic of the event. Ole Gunnar Dalhaugh, acting Coordinator of EERA’s Joint Programme Hydropower, acted as chair of the session.



Main findings:

    • Berit Köhler, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Norway

Ms Köhler started by detailing the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of hydropower at different levels, where the perception at local community level is usually the one which creates the most problems to successfully implement hydropower projects. For this reason, she stressed the importance on the research of social acceptance to avoid unnecesary conflicts, promote social sustainability and the clean energy transition of the region.

    • Agnès Barillier, EDF, France

Ms Barillier presented us with some successful examples where the environmental impact of hydropower had been mitigated. She concluded that it was imperative to work with stakeholders and have a long-term commitment in order to reduce it.

    • Staffan Lundström, Luleå University of Technology, Sweden

Mr Lundström expressed that, without mitigation technology, there is a risk that the increasing regulation affects the environment and the society in a negative way. In this sense, flexible hydropower can have a key role in environmental mitigation.

    • Nuno Portal, EDP Produção, Portugal 

Mr Portal made an overview of EDP Produção 's history and the challenges he has faced during the years that he has worked there. He expressed his concern about the 2050 challenges. To name one: it is foreseen that the demand of electricity will triple, and this will need to be achieved with zero-carbon emission technologies.

Poll on provocative statements

At the end of the presentations, the participants responded to nine questions that had been prepared by the speakers in the form of polls (1 do not agree -  10 strongly agree):

  1. The social acceptance of hydropower could be a critical bottleneck in the clean energy transition. - 43% marked 8
  2. The local environmental impacts of hydropower production have not been taken seriously enough - 24% marked 10 (strongly agree)
  3. It is necessary to find optimised solutions for both, hydropower production, the local environment and the people living in the area - 86% marked 10 (strongly agree)
  4.  A developer should abandon a project if mitigation of ecological issues has no local acceptance - shared majority of 21% between 10 and 8
  5.  An operator must be commited to continuous improvements in the preservation of the local environment - 55% marked 10 (strongly agree)
  6.  Highly flexible hydropower is beneficial for the ecosystem in a regulated river - shared majority (34%) between 8 and 5, this one meaning unsure.
  7. Effects from a highly flexible hydropower can be mitigated - 33% maked 8, followed by 23% of 10, and a noticeable 17% of unsure (5)
  8.  Hydropower projects still have an important role in the switch to renewable energy - 69% marked strongly agree (10)
  9.  In a very demanding environment, related with the energy transition and the Climate Change process, Hydropower projects will maintain a significant importance in electricity production in the future - 59% marked strongly agree (10)

Closing remarks

Anton Schleiss and Ole Gunnar Dalhaugh took the responsibility of making some final remarks: 

Presentations have shown that hydropower will have a key role in the energy transition, but there are some challenges to be addressed. More research and awareness about flexibility, social acceptance, especially local constraints, and environmental mitigation are what will make the role of hydropower evolve. Mr Schleiss concluded: "It is always the goal to create a win-win situation, even if it takes a long time to achieve that among all the stakeholders"



You can also access the recording of the session HERE.


Anton Schleiss at the World Hydropower Congress

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As coordinator of Coordinator of HYDROPOWER EUROPE, Anton Schleiss was invited to participate to a pre-recorded session of World Hydropower Congress, organised by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) discussing the challenges that the sector is facing in different countries /regions and sharing priorities ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). Anton Schleiss presented the goals of HYDROPOWER EUROPE and answered to the question « What would you say to campaigners who say that no new hydropower plants should be built in Europe? » He announced also the HYDROPOWER EUROPE dissemination event on September 22 in Lyon during the conference Hydro ES.


Register to EERA JP HYDRO & HYDROPOWER EUROPE Joint Event: Sustainability and acceptability of hydropower as part of the clean energy transition

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Hydro Power Europe invites you to register for the “Sustainability and the acceptability of hydropower as part of the clean energy transition” event hosted jointly with EERA JP HYDRO on 2nd September at 9.30 (CET).

Held in the frame of the EUSEW 2021 Sustainable Energy Days, the session will show how pumped and storage hydropower can address environmental and social issues more sustainably and contribute to the cost-effective integration of variable renewables and assurance of the security of supply. 

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HYDROPOWER EUROPE FORUM invites you to the Hydropower and Environmental Sustainability event

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HYDROPOWER EUROPE FORUM invites you to uncover the Research and Innovation Agenda and the Strategic Industry Roadmap at a three-day conference “Hydropower as a catalyst for the energy transition in Europe” starting on Wednesday, 22 September 2021, at 08:30 (CET). 

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IEA Hydropower Technology Collaboration Programme - Annex XVI - Workshop

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On behalf of Hydropower Europe, Prof. Anton Schleiss was invited as a speaker to the online workshop organized under the IEA Hydropower Technology Collaboration Programme on July 1st 2021. Prof. Schleiss made a presentation entitled "Hydropower Europe Forum - Hidden and Untapped Hydropower Opportunities in Existing Infrastructures (see presentation)

The purpose of the workshop was to share experiences on the development of Hidden and Untapped Hydropower Opportunities around the world (see programme). 

Further information on IEA TCP HYDROPOWER - Annex XVI can be found under

HYDROPOWER EUROPE hosted a Partner Event about potential pollution in hydropower during the EU Green Week 2021

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On the 8th of June 2021, over 70 of the almost 100 registered attendees joined the experts in a roundtable discussion on the topic “Hydropower: how to avoid potential pollution sources and to mitigate environmental impacts by innovative measures and concepts” to shed light on good practice that should serve as the basic standard for hydropower deployment.

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HYDROPOWER EUROPE becomes the official partner of International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower

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The International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH) has become the leading global platform for multidisciplinary collaboration in overcoming the common barriers to sustainable PSH development. On the 25th of May, 2021 the Forum held its second meeting where HYDROPOWER EUROPE participated.

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Environmental & Socio-Economic Challenges of Hydropower in Europe: the Experience of Non-Governmental Organisations

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On the 19th of January 2021, the HYDROPOWER EUROPE Forum organised a roundtable event inviting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss environmental & socio-economic challenges of hydropower in Europe.

The interaction between the Forum and regional players was essential to obtain a holistic view of the social acceptance of hydropower in Europe. About twenty organizations have alerted the Forum of unacceptable situations especially in the Western Balkans and they have shared a large number of recommendations with the team.

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