Hydropower: EU energy transition’s other sticking point

(EurActiv, 5 May 2023) The European Union is said to be full of untapped hydroelectric deposits that could be useful for making the energy system more flexible, but NGOs warn of the potentially devastating environmental effects of re-harnessing natural hydropower.

To develop France’s hydroelectric capacity, MP Raphaël Schellenberger (Les Républicains – right-wing) tabled a bill in late March that would “draw attention” to a decarbonised energy that still has significant untapped potential, he told EURACTIV.

Electricity sector players agree.

There is potential equivalent to 20% of France’s current hydroelectric production, which is the equivalent, in terms of consumption, of “coal and gas imports this winter [2022-2023]”, Jean-Marc Lévy, secretary general of France Hydro Électricité (FHE), the union of hydroelectric power plant operators, said on Franceinfo.

Currently, 2,500 hydro-powerplants – including 2,270 of less than 10 megawatts (MW) – have a total installed capacity of more than 25 GW and provide 10-14% of French electricity production each year. After nuclear power, it is the second largest energy source in the French electricity mix. It is also the largest hydroelectric park in the EU.

At the European level, hydroelectric power plants account for about 17% of electricity capacity. Reservoirs or pumped storage systems also constitute 90% of the EU’s electricity storage capacity.

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EurActiv, 5 May 2023: Hydropower: EU energy transition’s other sticking point