Hydropower energy is not a perfect solution for nature

An event organised in the European Parliament shows how hydroelectricity is wrongly perceived as a green energy despite its important impacts on the environment. 

Organised by the Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment Forum in the European Parliament on the 10th of November, the conference entitled “How green is hydropower?” addressed a widely unknown aspect of “renewables” in a time of crucial decisions for the future climate and energy policies.

“To reach the CO2-emission and renewable goals we will depend on the contribution of hydropower but we should not play down or ignore the unwanted effects on the aquatic environment or even on our climate.“

Ulrike Rodust, Member of the European Parliament

Different speakers from the scientific community and environmental NGOs such as WWF highlighted how the presence of dams affects water quality and makes fish migration almost impossible, upholding the impoverishment of European rivers. Some engineering works are built to mitigate these effects but water level fluctuations still cause important damages on fish populations and biodiversity balance (vegetation, river banks filling, stream banks alterations, invertebrates and young fish mortality…). It is also proved that dams contribute to release methane - a greenhouse gas - in the atmosphere.

The European anglers, who organised this event, consider that this important information should be taken into consideration when assessing the role that hydropower can play to reach the EU energy and climate targets or when deciding on new hydropower projects funded with public money.

The reviews of the implementation of the European Union’s environmental legislation show that the state of the rivers in Europe is alarming, with failing fish populations being one of the most common reasons for failure in the Water Framework Directive and that hydroelectricity has much to do with this. When all EU’s biggest rivers are already dammed, the development of hydropower now mainly concerns small scale plants in little rivers endangering fragile ecosystems while producing only a small amount of energy. For example, around 7300 of the 8000 hydropower plants in Germany are small hydropower plants producing 8-10% of the total generated electricity from hydropower and covering only 0.05% of the total electricity consumption in Germany. What is more, many projects to build new plants are under way, included inside Natura 2000 areas, where the most valuable and threatened species and habitats in the EU can be found.

The next Recreational Fisheries Forum’s event will focus on the Danube River and its endangered ecosystem including the iconic Huchen (Danube salmon).

Documents of the meeting


Press release



Save the Blue Hearth of Europe - U. Eichelmann, Riverwatch

The impact of hydropower dams on the rivers' ecosystems - Dr. F. Wagner, IGF Jena

Case study: Small hydropower in the Romanian Carpathians - Magor Csibi, Director, WWF Romania

The Water Framework Directive and hydropower - L. Alvarellos, DG ENVI, European Commission

Members of the European Parliament Mircea Diaconu, Maria Noichl and Ricardo Serrão Santos with one of the speakers, U. Eichelmann from Riverwatch

Members of the European Parliament Mircea Diaconu and Maria Noichl 

Magor Csibi, WWF Romania, Ulli Eichelmann, Riverwatch, MEP Mircea Diaconu, MEP Maria Noichl, MEP Ricardo Serrao Santos and Lourdes Alvarellos, European Commission

MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos drawing the conclusions 

The representatives of EFTTA: Jean-Claude Bel and Janet Doyle  

MEP Alojz Peterle, MEP Franc Bogovic, Dejan Pehar, Director of the Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia, Fred Bloot, EAA President and Borut Jerse, Ribiska Zveza Slovenije  

Conference: How green is hydropower? The impact of hydropower on EU's rivers and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive

10 November 2015 

European Parliament, Brussels 

MEP Ulrike Rodust, the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA)  are glad to invite you to the conference “How green is hydropower? The impact of hydropower on EU's rivers and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive” organised by the European Parliament Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment.

Where: European Parliament, ASP 3H1

When: 10 November 2015 from 18:30 to 20:00

The objective of the event is to raise awareness about the negative impacts of hydropower, and especially small dams, on the EU’s rivers ecosystems (e.g. affecting water quality and fish migration). The event will also be an opportunity to find out how the Water Framework Directive applies to hydropower and to discuss the current situation in EU Member States. 

You can download the programme of the conference here

For registrations, please send an email to cecile@eaa-europe.eu