JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE

Could Europe have more mini hydro sites? A suitability analysis based on continentally harmonized geographical and hydrological data

Abstract: 
The paper introduces a transparent methodology to assess new suitable locations for mini and small hydro powerplants in Europe.The expansion of hydroelectricity production is a policy focus not only in Europe, but in the US (Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013)and in the developing world as well. The analysis of the technical potential points out the exact geographical locations and their corresponding capacities instead of only a theoretical potential; therefore it can serve as a reference for the policy debate over the sustainable management of water resources.This debate is reflected already in two major European policies: the Water Framework Directive (WFD)(2000/60/EC) and the RES Directive (2009/28/EC) on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. As both policies have major influence on the priorities of water use, it is important to identify water management practices capable of accommodating sustainable energy purposes while maintaining water quality objectives at the same time. As the WFD poses limitation on the further expansion of large scale hydro options in the European water bodies, the present study focuses on local mini and small hydropower options and their suitability mapping. The presented, geographically explicit method is based on geospatial analysis and the results can contribute to the prioritization of potential hydropower sites in order to improve water quality and its use for energy simultaneously.