What are the major obstacles to small hydro power development in Europe, and what do we need to do the meet new renewable energy directive targets? Maria Laguna reviews events at Hidroenergia 2004, the International conference and exhibition on small hydro power
ORGANISED by the european-small-hydropower-association (ESHA) and the Swedish Association for Renewable Energy; Hydropower section (SERO), the international conference Hidroenergia 2004, held in Falkenberg, Sweden from 17-19 June, 2004 was a great success. More than 200 participants gathered to discuss the challenges and advancements in the small hydro power (SHP) sector. This international discussion and exchange of information was particularly imperative given the recent publication of a European Commission report on the implementation of the Directive for the Promotion of Electricity Produced from Renewable Energy Sources (RES-E Directive) and as the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) is implemented in the different EU member states.
The conference served as a platform for the exchange of points of view for all players in the small hydro sector worldwide. At the same time, the exhibition showcased the latest trends in small hydro engineering and technological developments.
With more than 30 presentations from all relevant sectors, including industry, non-governmental organisations, European institutions, research bodies and government, the conference addressed the legislative, environmental, economic and technological issues that need to be resolved to achieve the European White Paper targets set for SHP installed capacity by 2010.
Two parallel sessions were organised; the first regarding spatial planning and SHP and the second on public image and public acceptance of small hydro schemes. Hidroenergia 2004 also showcased the results of the EU-funded Thematic Network project being coordinated by ESHA. The European Thematic Network on Small Hydropower has achieved excellent results after one year and has established an electronic network with more than 150 participants from all relevant sectors. The network is delivering first-rate reports in areas such as research and technology, marketing, and environmental integration in order to help the SHP sector overcome barriers towards better exploitation of the resource.
Hidroenergia 2004 has shown that the SHP sector is going strong despite the administrative barriers that have been hindering its development in recent years. It has shown that despite SHP being a mature technology, there is still room for innovation and technical development mainly in terms of environmental integration and energy efficiency. Hidroenergia 2004 showed that the SHP sector is strongly interconnected and that networking activities are bringing together diverse groups including technicians, environmentalists and project developers.
The WFD has been identified as one of the major challenges faced by the SHP sector. Currently the WFD and the RES-E Directive are in conflict; the first could slow down SHP development while the RES-E Directive highlights the importance of hydroelectricity, so the major challenge is to achieve a balance between electricity production from SHP and nature conservation. In this sense, energy and environmental policies and regulations should be coordinated and complementary. A purist approach to the implementation of the WFD will stop the development of any kind of small hydro scheme, obstructing the achievement of the RES-E target.
At the same time, the conference underlined the importance of improving the public image of SHP and the need to broadly disseminate its environmental benefits and advantages.
Hidroenergia 2004 concluded that in order to meet the RES-E Directive target of 22% of electricity from renewables in the EU by the year 2010, SHP development is to be a fundamental part of the renewable energy mix. For this the administrative and environmental barriers that hinder the major development of SHP should be addressed at policy level. Therefore, the conference conclusions will help the European Commission to shape future policy and R&D priorities for renewables in general and small hydro in particular.
ESHA will continue to work to promote SHP in Europe and beyond and is looking forward to welcoming SHP specialists to Hidroenergia 2006 in the UK.
Maria Laguna is ESHA project manager. For more information, contact ESHA Secretariat at: firstname.lastname@example.org