EU's Need for Common Hydropower Regulations

Published on Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Hydropower development and innovation was at the heart of HYDRO 2014, the annual convention organised by the Hydropower & Damsjournal, in cooperation with the International Energy Agency and others. This year's edition was held in Cernobbio on Lake Como, and was attended by around 1,500 experts from 90 countries.

'Discussion during the event covered all issues within the industry, with numerous technical panels, key studies, debate on current projects taking place around the world and the use of tools such as project financing and international community's strategy,' said Daniele Rizzacasa, Project Engineer at Enel Green Power.

Enel is one of the world's largest utilities by installed capacity and operates a large number of hydroelectric plants, having gained a level of expertise that has made it an international point reference.

Among the objectives of the exhibition was to promote sustainable hydropower development. According to analysis led by the IEA, worldwide production of hydropower could potentially double by 2030.

Hydropower has a strong tradition in Italy, and today accounts for about 15 percent of electricity production. Enel's potential for growth is linked both to new, small plants which ensure a minimum vital water flow (a crucial factor for the preservation of river wildlife), and the renovation of older plants that was begun last three years ago, replacing facilities from the 40's, 50's and 60's with more modern systems, improving efficiency and productivity in the process.

However Italy's hydropower plant concessions need to be revised, Enel CEO Francesco Starace said at a recent hearing in the Italian Senate, as there is too large a difference between it and the European system. Concessions are much shorter in Italy (20-30 years) and it is one of the few countries where at the end of the concession there is a renewal tender based on financial, installed capacity and environmental impact criteria. In the rest of Europe, they last from 70 to 90 years. This means that there is an obvious imbalance, added Starace, and as such a solution needs to be found for those concessions about to expire.

There is therefore the need to take the time – not so much for Enel, whose licenses expire in 2029, but for the other operators – and set up two new ways of working, unifying domestic concessions systems across regions, and standardising the market across the EU.

'We believe that the problem of the integration of domestic markets into a single European energy market will be addressed and resolved within a few years,' finished Starace.