A mistake? The European Commission labels hydropower ‘green energy’

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21 Dec

In a press release announcing its decision to approve four support schemes for renewable energy in France, the European Commission used the unfortunate term “green energy” about hydropower.

The support measures validated by the Commission intend to support electricity production from various renewable energy sources in order to help France to reach its climate and energy goals. In particular, these new projects are expected to produce around 2,148 MW of electricity. 

There is no doubt that hydropower should be classified as a renewable energy source but much is neglected when it is described as a “green energy”. Indeed, as the EAA has long been advocating, hydropower plants have catastrophic impacts on the rivers’ ecosystems, notably by affecting sediment transport, water quality, killing fish and hampering their migration making it impossible for the fish to fulfil their lifecycle. 

Two events have been organised in the European Parliament during this legislature to raise awareness amongst the MEPs about hydropower’s negative impacts (for more info, see here and here).

France will subsidy an unknown number of small hydropower installations (less than 1MW). This is difficult to understand when balancing the negative effects on the environment with the very small amount of energy these installations will deliver. 

Following the European Commission’s decision, the EAA took contact with Ms Margrethe Vestager’s cabinet and is now awaiting for an answer on two particular important points: 

- How much of the announced 2,148 MW electricity production shall be produced by these small hydropower installations? 

- How many new small hydropower installations will be needed to deliver that production? 

More information: 

- EC press release “State aid: Commission approves four support measures for renewable energy in France” 

- EAA position paper "Small scale Hydropower" 

- Video ‘The end of the river’

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