Researchers put hydropower on EU energy agenda

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Hydropower could play an important role in realizing a reliable renewable energy system in Europe, researchers, EU officials and industry members said at the launch of a new hydropower research programme.

With a well proved capacity for storage, reliability and flexibility hydropower can help enable the EU goals of becoming the first zero-emission continent.

Hélène Charye, Head of Unit Clean energy Transition, Directorate Clean Planet. Emphasised that the European energy system must ble clean, renewable and sustainable.

The need to balance the power grid is a major opportunity for hydropower, said Hélène Chraye, the head of unit for the clean energy transition at the European Commission’s Research Directorate.

She spoke at the kick off for “Joint Programme Hydropower” by the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) in Brussels this week, emphasising the goal of renewable and sustainable energy for all.

A new role for hydropower

As the intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar power, have increased both in volume and efficiency, hydropower is no longer alone as a major clean energy supplier. By combining the qualities of these technologies many consider the renewable energy future to be within reach.

Today, hydropower provides approx. 50% of the renewable electricity production in Europe, and although several researchers at the event say that upgrades and new technology will increase the amount of energy produced, they believe that it through its unique abilities for storage and as a key system balancer that hydropower will have the most valuable impact.

When asked about role of hydropower in the new renewable energy strategy Chraye also said that hydropower is likely to play a more prominent role than before. 

Market design challenges

However, today’s market is not designed for this type of hydropower services several industry representatives pointed out, so both researchers and policy makers have some work to do to make it happen.  In the Joint Programme for Hydropower researchers from 29 institutions in 13 countries throughout Europe will cooperate. A lot of innovation and technology is already available, and through this collaboration the ambition is that they can develop hydropower to be a key to a clean, sustainable and renewable European energy system.

Hans Ivar Skjelbred (SINTEF) will lead the work on digitalisation. This work extends across all the projects and throughout the hydropower system. He also pointed out that a lot of the research is related to the UN sustainable development goals.
Jochen Aberle (Professor at TU Brauschweig) leads the work on hydropower structures. The work spans from tunnels and dams to fish passages and climate change.
Professor Anton Schleiss, coordinator of Hydropower Europe for ICOLD (International Comission on Large Dams), talked about how hydropower can be a catalyst for the successful energy transition in Europe.
In the Joint Programme for Hydropower researchers from 29 institutions in 13 countries throughout Europe will cooperate.

These are the research-areas in the Joint Programme for Hydropower:


Hege Brende |Coordinator, e-mail

Pål-Tore Selbo Storli | Vice-Coordinator , e-mail

Sara Heidenreich | Manager, e-mail

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