Sportfiskarna buys a hydropower plant to decommission it

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13 Apr

To restore a declining freshwater biodiversity, the Swedish Anglers Association Sportfiskarna bought a hydropower plant to decommission it. This will remove another obstacle on the migratory path of fish species, so that they can return to their former spawning grounds. This fits in the wider Biodiversity Strategy presented by the European Commission in 2020.

To fight the rapid decline in freshwater biodiversity, the European Commission set in its Biodiversity Strategy an objective of restoring 25,000 km of rivers into free-flowing rivers by 2030 notably “through the removal of primarily obsolete barriers.” But anglers, have been aware of the dramatic situation of Europe’s rivers for a long time now and are taking things into their own hands.

Like in Sweden where Sportfiskarna, member of the European Anglers Alliance, bought a hydropower plant and plans to decommission it. Sweden is plagued with more than 2,000 hydropower plants, the majority of them being small facilities (<10MW) which contribute little to the electricity supply but cause great damage to the aquatic environment, such as the one in Ovansjö.

The demolition of the plant is expected to take place in 2024 and is financed by Sportfiskarna and the Hydroelectric Environmental Fund (Vattenkraftens Miljöfond), a fund financed by eight Swedish energy companies to ensure that hydropower plants can continue to produce renewable energy with less impact on the environment. “With this investment, we want to give fish the opportunity to swim up the river Stångån without lowering the water level in the upstream Bölesjön. We also want to show that there is an opportunity for owners to eliminate harmful obstacles to fish migration without having an impact on the Swedish energy supply,” said Joakim Ollén, Chairman of Sportfiskarna’s Board.

By decommissioning the plant, sea trout, eel and lamprey will be able to migrate further up the river. This will contribute to restoring biodiversity in the area, to the delight of landowners upstream, anglers and the ecosystem as a whole.

Many actors, including angling clubs and associations are mobilised on the ground to remove barriers on European rivers and restore fish migration ways, concretely contributing to the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. At the same time, the EAA and its partners from the Living Rivers Europe coalition are working to make sure that other EU policies do not harm the restoration efforts. In the context of the revision of its Renewable Energy Directive, the EU must absolutely avoid encouraging the construction of new small-scale hydropower plants on European rivers through financial support and accounting criteria towards the renewable energy target of Member States. It is also key to disincentivise small-scale hydropower installations and promote refurbishment of the existing plants, including by installing fish passages to facilitate fish migration.

To learn more about the project, visit Sportfiskarna website here.

(c) Picture by Svante Harström
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