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Multipurpose projects for the sustainable future of hydropower

Hydropower is a renewable energy source that, due to its flexibility, it is a privileged position to be a key enabler of the energy transition in Europe. What is more, the current energy crisis added to the climate emergency, evidences the need to decarbonise, and that, can only be done through the massive deployment of renewable energies.

Globally, hydropower accounted for the 60% of all renewable electricity generation in 2020, and it still could double its capacity. In fact, that is the trend that the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Hydropower Association (IHA) foresee by 2050.


WWF, in the letter published last 6 February 2023, drives the attention towards the impacts of hydropower in the freshwater ecosystems. ETIP Hydropower is aware of the obstructions made to the aquatic ecosystems that are also outlined in the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC). However, they should be carefully assessed and classified, as there are different categories that require distinct ways of intervention, e.g., morphological alterations of the waterways, physical damage to fauna, etc.

The research of technologies and systems is fundamental to foster new mitigation strategies that give place to a less impactful hydropower projects. ETIP HYDROPOWER aims to facilitate R&I actions by updating and updating priorities through the implementation of a framework in coordination with the members of the ETIP, that includes all stakeholders of the hydropower value chain.

Several investigation projects are being developed at the moment under EU funding, not only addressing ecosystem mitigation measures, but also working towards the resilience to climate change or to release hidden opportunities for hydropower, strengthening flexibility, reliability, and safety. These will ultimately be aimed to offer pragmatic solutions that enhance the quality of the surrounding ecosystem around hydropower installations.



Hydropower projects are highly complex. This low-carbon renewable source is an established technology whose infrastructures have a multi-purpose potential that should not be ignored. Irrigation and drinking water storage, flood and drought risk management, water transportation or the improvement of recreational and touristic infrastructures are some of the alternative applications that could be given to hydropower projects apart from the electricity generation per se.

Multipurpose schemes are not only beneficial, but necessary. Reservoirs can foster regional development and the preservation of cultural heritage in the form of financing resource for local communities, the creation of jobs and new facilities for sustainable transportation or leisure, for instance.

The EU currently hosts several multipurpose reservoirs. Out of the 4,451 high dams (more than 15 metres) registered in the EU by the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), 25% serve for multipurpose water management, which shows that reservoir operators have enough experience in the management of the installations for multiple usages.



In the current geopolitical and climate crisis, where volatile energy sources are taking place, hydropower seems like a key enabler to keep the competitiveness of the European energy sector facing the achievement of the energy transition targets. However, several financial, regulatory, and environmental challenges need to be identified and addressed with the support of all stakeholders, also seeking the interaction with different energy sectors.

ETIP HYDROPOWER invites interested parties to continue the dialogue next 25 April 2023 during the “Hydropower Day” in Brussels (Belgium), where all actors will be able to have a voice and contribute to the creation of an even more sustainable, flexible and safe hydropower.

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