The future for hydro - roundtable discussion2 March 2015
Suzanne Pritchard talked to key members of the hydropower industry to discover what they think the future holds for hydropower
Where do you think the opportunities for developing hydropower exist in the coming year and beyond?
Maryse François-Xausa, Alstom: The types of opportunities vary significantly around the world. In North America and Europe the market is more oriented to retrofits with customers looking to increase plant efficiency and flexibility and decrease environmental footprint. Energy storage and small hydro are also major opportunities in these regions. For Africa, Asia and Latin America, new hydro plants, often quite large, are needed to provide energy to supply the growing demands of these regions. Only approximately one-third of the world's hydro capacity has been tapped. Also many reservoirs have no hydroelectric generation capacity. Just equipping these reservoirs would add significant carbon-free electricity with almost no environmental impact.
Simon Hamlyn, British Hydropower Association: In the UK, with the rapid degression of the Feed in Tariff by the Department of the Environment and Climate Change (DECC), new developments in hydropower in the short term will be very limited. There are a significant number of existing schemes that will be built out in the next two years and the BHA will continue to work with the wider hydro industry, other renewable technologies and DECC on a revised feed in tariff scheme.
Charles Field, Black & Veatch: We are targeting hydropower development in Southeast Asia, in particular, and have recently established a Hydropower Centre of Excellence in the region. It remains one of the fastest-growing regions in the world with GDP growth rates projected to average 5.4% per annum between 2014 and 2018. With the region dependent on oil imports and facing potential natural gas supply shortages, hydropower has emerged as a viable option to help meet growing demands for electricity. Generation capacity is set to double in the next ten years across Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines.
Martina Steinkusz, European Small Hydropower Association: It is beyond any doubt that the European hydropower industry is quite mature and highly developed at a technological level. However, much is still to be achieved; in the field of small hydropower (SH), with only 44TWh/yr, less than half of its potential has been tapped within the EU. More than 50TWh/yr can be brought on line in the future, if the current conditions are improved. Thus, SHP must be designed site by site in order to comply with all the environmental requirements to take advantage of the remaining potential. The most promising countries for further SH expansion in the EU are Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Greece and Poland.
The hydropower sector will continue, as it has for many years, to drive innovation and best solutions. Innovation and new approaches on how to unleash small hydropower's full potential are currently being explored within the industry. The Hydro Equipment Association's Technology Roadmap offers a series of solutions for hydro generation to improve further its contribution to the European goals and targets. Small hydro projects, for example, with small pumped storage or multipurpose projects, can play a part in providing ancillary services to the distribution grid.
Further crucial research topics on hydropower are the development of hydropower plants with new and innovative solutions to answer to smart grid advanced requirements (VPP), the adaptation and optimisation of technological parameters (due to new operational behavior because of the Water Framework Directive), research on fish friendly (oil-free) solutions and further solutions like the hydrokinetic turbine or low and ultra-low head technologies.
The EU co-funded project RESTOR Hydro (www.restor-hydro.eu) shows that great potential also lies in repowering and refurbishing old and abandoned sites. An estimated 30TWh could be achieved with refurbishing old sites resulting in increased energy production, and at the same time improving ecological conditions and contributing to reaching the 2020 targets. The RESTOR Hydro project aims to involve local citizens in the refurbishment of historical water wheels, mills, weirs and existing lateral river structure sites. Local citizens will be offered a share of the project with co-ownership by creating a cooperative. Fifty thousand potential sites for refurbishment are being mapped on the RESTOR Hydro Map until 2015 and the project partners in different EU target countries are helping site owners to guide them through the implementation process of the cooperative model.
Adama Nombre , International Commission on Large Dams: According to the available data, hydropower development opportunities exist and are expanding in all continents including developed countries, with the increase of pumped storage due to the development of energy storage needs taking advantage of the increase of intermittent renewable energy. Emerging regions like Brazil, Turkey, South East Asia, Eastern Europe and progressively Africa also have experienced an increase of hydropower development. In South East Asia and Africa, it is urgently needed to satisfy to help improve living conditions to provide the basis for prosperity. The strong commitment of the World Bank and other international key players, the increasing will at regional and national levels, and the available funds from the BRICS countries are good opportunities to speed up hydropower in less developed countries.
Large potential for development exist in Africa where only 8% of the economically feasible potential have been installed and also in Asia where around 30% of potential has been developed and where the economic growth is significant. In these areas people are still living without adequate access to clean water, sanitation, food security, health care and others conditions which are a minimum for living in dignity in this 21st century.
Richard Taylor, International Hydropower Association: India is an example of renewed hydropower activities, as the new political leadership perceives hydropower to be important for the country's development. The role of the private sector as the principle driver is being encouraged and the government is actively supporting binational projects starting in Nepal and continuing in Bhutan.
China concludes its current five-year development plan in 2015, with more than 20GW under development currently, and another ambitious five-year plan is to follow. Russia has recently entered into binational agreements to build several projects with China.
Peru has a series of private sector projects under consideration. Tajikistan is looking to complete its long-dormant Rogun project, which would help to stabilise its energy economy, and Indonesia has ambitious plans for both pure hydro and pumped storage.
Generally speaking, another dynamic will be the relationship between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which has been formalised in 2014 through the establishment of the New Development Bank. Given the hydropower portfolio and influence of these countries in development of their regions, there is likely to be more support options globally for hydropower. That being said, we will continue to have to document hydropower's contribution in the least developed countries to answer sceptical voices, in particular coming from the US.
While there is no clear consensus on how much realistic potential is available globally, estimates indicate that the existing capacity could be doubled by the middle of the century. Where this will be developed is a matter of market conditions. Power pools, increased bilateral trade in electricity, and new customers demanding green energy will drive further growth in hydropower.
From a technological point of view, an important new driver for global development is hydropower's role as a flexible generation asset as well as an energy storage technology. Storage hydropower (including pumped storage) represents 99% of the world's operational electricity storage. With the increased deployment of variable renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar, hydropower is increasingly recognised as an important system management asset capable of ensuring a reliable supply.
Mike McWilliams, Mott MacDonald: With a rapidly growing global electricity demand and a requirement for decarbonisation, the need for renewable, sustainable and economic generation is increasing. Hydropower is currently the only renewable technology which can be despatched and deliver generation on a global scale matched to development requirements. It has the potential to be a major driver for sustainable development and poverty alleviation across the world.
Over the past decade, nearly 50% of the hydropower market has been in China. However, over the next 10-20 years this share is predicted to fall to nearer 25%, implying growth in other areas. Brazil, India, Canada and Pakistan are likely to provide growing opportunities, as well other areas of Latin America, South East Asia, Africa and Europe.
Technology will play an important role in the development of hydropower and the transition towards a low-carbon economy. Also important is the sharing of expertise, best practices and methodologies related to the sustainability and financing of hydropower. This includes encouraging multilateral developing and financing agencies to consider sustainable hydropower as possible energy solutions in developing countries.
Linda Church Ciocci, National Hydropower Association: Hydropower in the US has tremendous potential for growth. Back in 2012, the Department of Energy released a report detailing over 12,000MW of untapped hydropower capacity at the nation's existing non-powered dams. This year, DOE built upon that study and found more than 65,000 MW of sustainable hydropower potential still exists in US stream-reaches. In addition, we have more and more opportunities to build pumped storage facilities as wind and solar continue to grow, creating new markets for energy storage, and there continues to be significant growth potential through the development of marine, wave and hydrokinetic technologies. Water power has a great future with tremendous technical potential. However, there are challenges that hold back growth and development that can be addressed through both federal and state policies.
Helmut Schade, Voith Hydro Holding: The potential for developing hydropower continues to be very large as still less than a quarter of the technically feasible hydropower potential around the world has been utilised so far. There are more than 3000GW of clean, reliable energy from hydropower that can newly be developed and many existing hydropower stations which are due for modernisation since they have been in operation for more than 30 years.
We expect a stable hydropower development in the coming years with some additional very large projects. Asia and Latin America will continue to be very important markets offering the greatest potential. Africa looks to become a more interesting market and to intensify developing its huge hydropower resources, and also Russia has potential, especially in the area of modernisation and uprating.
From a technological point of view, pumped storage has a lot to offer in supporting the move towards higher renewable energy generation that is a trend in most energy systems around the world. The benefits range from fast and flexible reaction times to stabilising the grid and ancillary services like voltage support, which are especially useful for power grids with an increasing share of energy from fluctuating renewable sources like wind and solar.
In this context, the variable-speed technology is especially suitable focusing even more on reacting flexibly and contributing essentially to grid stability. Voith is currently installing two variable-speed units, the largest of their kind in Europe, at Frades-II in Portugal, which will be connected to the grid in 2015 - a technological milestone in hydropower development.
What challenges does hydropower face in 2015?
Maryse François-Xausa: From the electro-mechanical perspective, technical challenges are front and centre and the two key drivers are increasing plant flexibility and decreasing the cost of electricity. Increasing hydro unit size is one of the ways hydro electrical manufacturers are decreasing the cost of electricity. Bigger projects with bigger machines are more efficient and there is an economy of scale in having fewer but more powerful units. Just last summer, the most powerful hydro turbine and generator units ever built (800 MW/889 MVA) entered into service at Xiangjiaba in China. These units also have the world's most powerful air-cooled generators.
In terms of flexibility, customers are requesting machines that operate over wider operating ranges. In addition to expanded operating ranges, customers are frequently turning to variable speed technology for their pumped storage plants as a means of increasing flexibility. Amongst other benefits, variable speed enables power regulation capabilities in generation and pumping mode. Advances in computing technology and calculation software - computational fluid dynamics and finite element method - are key tools that enable the design of more flexible machines. These tools help design engineers predict and mitigate turbulence that might occur during various operating regimes and the potential effect on the materials of the machine. Additionally, they help optimise the design and increase efficiency of the machine by accurately predicting various losses.
Simon Hamlyn: Key challenges for the hydro industry in the UK include:
- The continued degression of the Feed-in-Tariff which will affect new hydropower developments.
- An increase in further unwarranted regulation from the regulatory bodies in England Wales, NI and Scotland.
- Uncertainty over government policy on renewables ahead of the General Election in May 2015.
- The continued pressure on realistic grid connection dates.
Charles Feild: Maintaining the current level of investor confidence in hydropower will be key in 2015 and the years ahead. This is particularly important in regions like Southeast Asia where there is renewed interest from a new set of developers and lenders.
Much of the next phase of hydropower development in Southeast Asian countries will be technically more difficult than previously has been the case, as typically the sites with relatively easy access and favourable topographic conditions have already been developed. Successful hydropower development is very much site and solution specific. Therefore, in assessing whether or not to invest in a particular hydropower opportunity, developers in Southeast Asia should seek quick, accurate and realistic costing and scheduling that takes into account the cost and schedule impacts of the actual site conditions. For example, insufficient knowledge of subsurface conditions and properties may result in down-the-line construction cost increases or delays.
Martina Steinkusz: The SHP growth rates during the past years have been rather disappointing. This is due to the many barriers the sector is facing mainly as environmental requirements and timely administrative procedures. Indeed, the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) in the EU, which at national level affects the approval of new projects, is endangering the future development of hydro potential. Thus development in many of the EU Member States can be rather described as "survival". Several Member States' measures have already been taken to block SH development, despite the large investment interests and strong efforts of the sector to meet increasing environmental demands.
The conflict between energy and the environment is harmful as it creates an inaccurate comprehension of two separate and incompatible poles, where the energy is the intruder in the environment and as such unwanted. What we need is an open, broad and scientifically based dialogue. Additionally the dispute between the RES and WFD directives must be solved quickly before it further harms the EU's competitiveness. This is crucial as the negative trend threatens the hydropower industry where Europe still holds the leadership in the sector. Hydropower is a form of environmentally beneficial electricity production. So, it is paradoxical that some want to protect our environment by reducing small hydropower's energy share.
With a new EU Parliament in place, politicians in Brussels will discuss EU policy and legislation processes relevant to the small hydropower sector. Energy policy will play a major role in the next EU legislation period. The debates and decisions by EU institutions will take place within the frame of three headwords, namely sustainability, affordability and reliability - topics on which ESHA advocates to key decision-makers the various valuable solutions and opportunities which the small hydropower sector offers.
This is a crucial time and opportunity for ESHA and its members to campaign for improved market conditions for the hydropower sector, the removal of any barriers to hydropower development and an increase in hydroelectricity production in Europe.
Adama Nombre: The main challenges hydropower will face in the coming year remain the need to mobilise funds due to the large amount of upfront investment and the required time for project preparation and implementation. A lot of progress has been achieved in terms of the environment, social impact assessment and management and also in term of dams and hydropower governance. IHA, ICOLD and others institutions are providing the best guidance for project development in the best way to ensure that these projects are technically, economically sound and environmentally and socially equitable. There are still some critics against these projects from some part of sociey but one can say that the ethics and progress in values are integrated progressively in project development and these should be recognised.
Richard Taylor: The sector faces a series of challenges that IHA has translated into 20 questions for the future of hydropower, which form the backbone of the 2015 World Hydropower Congress in Beijing in May. These include questions such as:
- When is conservation compatible with hydropower development?
- What are the boundaries and responsibilities of resettlement programmes?
- How can we demonstrate climate resilience?
- What are the mitigation options for sediment management?
In the run up to the congress, and with the help of those who will be in Beijing in May and who want to move hydropower forward around the world, we will gather solutions and ideas and set our work priorities over the next two years.
Mike McWilliams: I see the greatest challenge being funding. Although the magnitude of funding required for capital intensive hydropower is great, the challenge is how to mobilise the funding available by mitigating the risk of investment. Funding in the public sector is limited and needs to be used correctly to leverage further funds from the private sector. Currently in hydropower the risk-reward profile is not good. Funds are tied up during the development and construction phases, which are subject to cost overrun and delay. They are then subject to hydrological variability, market vagaries and payment uncertainty during operation and political risk throughout the investment period. Investors have a choice of where to place their money and currently not much is going into hydro projects. We need to find ways of managing and sharing these risks and mitigating them where possible.
Linda Church Ciocci: In the US, 2015 will be the first year without a production tax credit incentivising hydropower development and its revitalisation, further compounding issues developers find with securing capital for projects with intensive upfront costs. Other financial incentive programmes, like the Clean Renewable Bonds programme, have had very limited funding, further reducing federal support to get surmount financial challenges of development.
But perhaps the largest hurdle stems from the uncertainty inherent in the multiyear, multi-stakeholder licensing and permitting process. While improvements have been made to the process - both administratively and legislatively - over time, still the process takes too long with no assurance at the conclusion that project will pencil out. This makes the business case for development far tougher when one compares it to gas plans or other renewables that can be built far more expeditiously. The fact is we need hydropower with all its intrinsic and ancillary benefits more now than ever. The government - federal and state - need to work more closely together to reduce unnecessary delays in the process and see themselves as partners in the important task of brining more clean, zero and low emitting resources to the grid. NHA is hard at work continuing our efforts to secure such improvements. We secured three major pieces of reform legislation during this 113th Congress, and we will be working with other stakeholders to craft and bring more changes in the 114th Congress.
Helmut Schade: Challenges for hydropower development differ on a global scale, and are often related to country specific energy policies, regulations and other sources of energy resources. A lot has improved in the past years, however, permission processes and environmental licensing can still be further increased to support hydropower development. Long-term energy policies, clear rules and efficient paths are essential here.
The advanced exploitation of shale gas, especially in North America for example puts pressure on energy prices and, thus, investments in other forms of energy generation, amongst them hydropower, are being held back to a recognizable extent.
A similar situation can be seen in Europe where political frame conditions, especially in the course of the energy transition in Germany, cause pressure on prices as well as uncertainties for long-term financing of energy generation projects, affecting especially pumped storage developments - although it can offer various benefits to the energy system.
What can the hydropower industry do to help secure hydropower's important role in the global, renewable energy mix?
Maryse François-Xausa: Not only is hydro the leading source of renewable energy with around 16% of the world's electricity coming from hydro but it also plays a key role in integrating intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, into the grid. Pumped storage plants are the most flexible and widespread means for mass storage of electricity. Even more important, PSPs play an essential role in power regulation which is the capability for generating units to rapidly adapt their output to keep generation and consumption balanced at all times. Electrical production and consumption need to be balanced to ensure the stability and continuous operation of electrical networks.
Simon Hamlyn: We need to continue to lobby government to promote the many significant benefits of hydropower; address the support it provides through the review of the Feed-in- Tariff; and recognise that hydropower is not only the greenest of renewable technologies but one that has an 80% UK supply chain, a lifespan that can reach out to 80+ years and supports predominantly rural and often fragile communities with significant yet unobtrusive investment.
Charles Feild: The first hurdle will always be finance. We need to continue to prove the bankability of hydropower through the development of well-planned and reliable power generation facilities. With more accurate and predictable returns on investments, hydropower will remain a viable option in the energy mix.
Beyond finance, the industry should then continue to educate and engage broader stakeholders around the range of scales and applications of the technology. For example, mini, small and mid-size run-of-river projects can be successfully developed with lower capital start-up costs and, by connecting remote areas to the grid, deliver additional socio-economic benefits for rural communities. Likewise, pumped storage can play a pivotal and affordable role in grid reliability in terms of balancing intermittent energy resources. Hydropower is not a one-size-fits-all technology.
Martina Steinkusz: Even though the European Union and Brussels do not seem to have much to do with the daily business of small hydropower stakeholders in EU Member States, EU policy processes and legislation directly impact the small hydropower business on national and local level since EU regulations become immediately enforceable in all Member States and directives need to be transposed into national law.
Furthermore, several non-EU countries like Norway and Switzerland typically use EU policies as a starting point for their own regulations. Representatives of EU institutions and member states advocate their positions and policy priorities in international organisations such as the United Nations or IRENA. In addition, EU Member States tend to distribute aid to developing countries based on their own national policies for energy. In short, if the EU as such favours the development of small hydropower within its territory, they will most likely support it also outside Europe.
The EU agenda for 2015 includes a number of topics which can have a positive or adverse impact on the future development of the small hydropower sector in each Member State. They therefore need to be closely monitored and influenced by the SHP sector, such as by ESHA.
The SHP sector needs to ensure that discussions and future decisions are in favour of the sector's long-term development. With 25 years of experience, ESHA is known as an influential and vibrant advocacy organisation which can proudly look back at important political and organisational achievements. Given the current and upcoming political developments and processes on EU and Member States' level, ESHA's reputation, status and activities ensure that the interests of the small hydropower sector are taken into account.
ESHA's activities in working groups, conferences, events and bilateral meetings with EU officials and parliamentarians maintain the necessary contacts and networks to keep the advantages, potential and opportunities of small hydropower in the awareness of key EU decision-makers.
Adama Nombre: The main role of the hydro industry is to propose to the societies well prepared projects which can help the societies to improve the human conditions and contribute to the prosperity. Due to the versatile role of hydropower, water storage facilities can address the existing multipurpose needs and can adapt for the appearance and increase of new requirements in the future. The mean age of the existing infrastructures is around 60 years and all this asset continue to offer large spectrum of services to society and communities. Stored water helps to develop water supply, irrigation, flood control, river regulation, navigation and wetland improvement in the cheapest way.
The crucial role of hydropower for stabilising power systems endangered by intermittent renewable energies is increasingly recognised but I think hydropower industry must continue to strongly communicate on this role in order to ensure the development of pumped storage plants. Currently this is the only way of storing large amounts of energy that would be lost.
Richard Taylor: On the technical side the development of pumped storage, especially variable-speed and fast reacting pure hydro equipment, will greatly facilitate the further penetration of the less flexible renewable energy technologies. The challenges here are twofold: first, the industry has to communicate the operational benefits of hydropower in a way that can be better understood by policy makers, and secondly, policy makers will have to translate this understanding in to market conditions that will incentivise investment in this type of hydropower technology. Much more work has to be done in both these aspects.
Uncertainties and conflicting opinions are greatly affecting decision-making at the policy level, especially when climate change comes into the picture. As an industry, we need to develop major collaboration programmes to address outstanding scientific matters. We also need to gather best practices in a more systematic way.
Regarding science, many studies are in fact outdated because they do not have access to recent data or because the authors are simply using unsound judgement without being challenged. At IHA, we are fully engaged in closing the knowledge gaps wherever we can. We are, for example, looking at hydropower's own climate footprint to bring greater clarity to what has become a contentious issue. We are developing a tool, with the help of world experts, to predict greenhouse gas emissions from freshwater reservoirs. This is the continuation of a nine-year international effort of collaboration that has already led to the development of measurement guidelines, which has gone some way to shed light on the complexity of the issues. We now know that reservoirs can be sinks for (as well as emitters of) greenhouse gases, and that human activities have a significant impact on the emission profile of a reservoir.
Similar work is needed on water consumption related to hydropower, as recent water-footprinting of the energy sector has attempted to allocate total evaporative loss at impoundments to hydropower operations. Another topic where we have mobilised our network of experts is risk, and the ways in which financial risk can be shared and mitigated. The next research front that we should explore as a sector is probably macroeconomics, including the quantification of benefits from multipurpose projects.
With regard to best practices, we are talking about environmental and social aspects of projects of course, but also more basic elements, such as operational safety. There has been a great amount of experience gathered over the previous decades, but there is tremendous scope for sharing this information better. One should bear in mind that it only takes one major failure on a project somewhere in the world to affect the entire sector.
As an association, IHA plays its part but we hope that more companies and organisations will join our initiatives and research programmes to strengthen our sector and continue to be proactive and responsive when needed. Our objective is to be able to bring external stakeholders into the discussion as they are often concerned and working on these issues.
Mike McWilliams: We need to convince governments, politicians, international financing institutions and non-governmental organisations to focus their best efforts on facilitating hydro development. We are currently in a period where capital is cheap and should use this to increase the investment in hydro that will see development returns for decades to come.
Linda Church Ciocci: The industry is its own best advocate for positive changes in the policy environment that will help push hydropower to its full potential. Meeting with their local, state, and federal representatives, as well as bringing the message of hydropower's positive benefits to their customers and communities, will demonstrate to them what we already know: that the hydropower industry offers plenty of room to grow to address the nation's energy, environmental, and economic challenges. As Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said, we need to "pick up the sheets off this hidden renewable".
Helmut Schade: Hydropower is already an integral and indispensable technology in the set of renewables, and being a proven and mature technology it will continue to play its role also in the future given the global pursuit of climate-friendly, clean and reliable energy.
Continuous innovation and the adaption to market needs will support this goa. Small hydro is just one example where we have come up with ecologically friendly solutions and new innovations like the Voith StreamDiver that can be used to tap new potential; potential that needs new technically feasible and cost-effective solutions like very low head locations. As a result, areas that may not have been economically viable in the past have become attractive for power generation. Applications like this can also be taken to upgrade existing dams and utilise them for energy generation. Less than 15% of all dams around the world are used for power generation - another huge potential.
In addition, we need to emphasise the benefits of hydropower more actively. We need to talk much more about the many pros of hydropower. In a lot of cases hydropower is taken for granted. It's in the background, it does its job. There isn't any other source of technology that generates power that has such sustainability in life than hydropower. This is the message we need to promote again and again.
And when it comes to hydropower we need to empahsise that dams aren't only built for hydropower generation, but for irrigation, water supply, flood control, navigability and have so much more to offer than pure energy generation. This is often forgotten in the debates about hydropower and needs to be expressed more clearly in the future.
How do you think the hydropower industry can overcome the problem of recruiting sufficient numbers of young engineers into the profession?
Maryse François-Xausa: Industry must go beyond just being a future employer and become more of a partner in developing and training the next generation of engineers. This includes internships, work-study programmes and funding doctoral theses. Going even further, the hydro industry can put in place public - private partnerships to conduct fundamental research to develop the next generation of hydro electro-mechanical equipment. For example, Alstom recently inaugurated an industrial chair, called Hydro'Like with the Grenoble Institute of Technology which, in collaboration with Alstom, will conduct fundamental research necessary for the next generation of hydro machines.
Simon Hamlyn: That is a big question. There needs to be a concerted effort at the earliest possible stages of the education system that promotes the hydropower sector as one that is not only attractive as a career choice for budding engineers, but one that is easily understood and is deemed as mainstream as other occupations.
Charles Feild: Setting aside the more general problem of attracting young people into engineering, which certainly varies from country to country, hydropower faces competition from other infrastructure engineering fields, particularly other renewable technologies.
What's technically appealing about hydropower is that it integrates many fields of engineering, including civil, structural, electrical, mechanical and geotechnical. This means that it's never too late to recruit engineers into our profession and we don't have to restrict the recruitment drive to new graduates. The door to a career in hydropower engineering should never be closed.
Martina Steinkusz: During the HYDRO 2014 congress in Cernobbio , Prof. Anund Killingtveit (NTNU) and Steve Usher (Aqua-Media International Ltd) stated during their presentations that to attract and retain the next generation of young engineers into the profession, the hydropower industry and education facilities need to work together to help create more interest in studying this technology. Not only do universities in Europe need to put back hydropower on the ordinary study curriculum, but industry also needs to promote itself through student career fairs, offer internships and mentoring opportunities to young professionals.
Then, from an economic point of view, if Europe's hydro industry becomes more vibrant again then engineers would follow, too. By highlighting hydropower innovation of recent years, young engineers would probably become more intrigued and want to participate in this development. But for that we need a market that would be large enough to be even visible. As the development of new SHP plants is nearly stopped, along with the generation electricity prices near the limit of the operational costs, the whole demand-offer chain is weakened. Thus, improving the electricity market conditions for the SHP would be one of the important steps.
Although small hydro development in the EU is stalled developers are still going overseas to construct new schemes. Travel to remote areas and experiencing both engineering life and seeing the world and local people of different cultures can be a big attraction to young (and old) engineers.
Adama Nombre: This issue of capacity building is one of the concerns of the profession and the industry, mainly in countries who have developed their potentials in the early 1960s and '70s and where the activity has been drastically reduced. It is also a concern in developing countries, where they need to improve human resources to handle properly the implementation, operation, maintenance and safety of these important infrastructures. We are optimistic and confident with the new pace in the development of hydropower because we see that more and more brilliant Young Engineers are entering in this field.
Last year I attended the French National Committee on Dams and Reservoirs Symposium and was impressed by the fact that many attendees were very dynamic young engineers. This is also the case of seminars and symposia organised by several National Committees concerned with the training of young professionals. The Young Engineer Forum established by ICOLD is growing each year, gathering more and more young people in the profession in an increasing number of countries.
The development of human resources should be considered as a full component of projects to ensure its sustainability and to improve overall capacity in the sector. The collaboration of industry, engineering schools and universities is also an important activity.
Richard Taylor: In places where recruitment is a problem we should ask ourselves: have we, as a sector, given sufficient profile to this issue? It is difficult to act if the problem is not acknowledged by a wide community and brought forward in relevant discussions. From there, we should identify the right target, the right messages and the right channels to reach out to future professionals.
This means that we should probably make more effort to reach out to women, and we should also understand how the hydropower profession has evolved and explain the expectations on the future workforce. For example, engineers have to adapt constantly to deal with a greater number of stakeholders and many more disciplines involved. While this is more challenging, it can also make working in the hydropower sector more interesting and fulfilling.
We should understand the expectations of younger generations, who are more demanding about what a job can offer in terms of personal development and purpose. In this regard we should be communicating better on the complementarity of hydropower with the world's energy and water challenges.
Mike McWilliams: We do not have a problem attracting good young engineers into hydropower which is seen as an exciting and rewarding sector. There is a shortage of experienced senior engineers, particularly in the 35 to 50 year old bracket, however the new wave of younger engineers coming through are helping to make up for this deficiency.
Linda Church Ciocci: The Hydropower Research Foundation in the US has done an outstanding job of bringing bright, young engineering talent into the hydropower fold through its fellowship and mentorship program. Connecting the current generation with the future is essential to demonstrate the vital and fulfilling work that occurs within our storied industry. Partnering with local colleges has also proven effective. But we can do more. Industry members need to reach out to their alma maters, local universities and colleges and let them know of the tremendous opportunities within the hydropower industry today. Hydropower is a great career choice - one that can provide a secure and stable future - one that can last a life-time.
Helmut Schade: Here, a similar aspect applies: We need to spread the positive message about hydropower. Hydropower is a mature technology, but it is also innovative to further enhance the technology for the future.
Renewable energy is the future, and hydropower plays such an important role in this context. Hydropower has so much to offer: it is clean, reliable, and sustainable - and it's a people's business providing many opportunities and experiences for everyone working in it.
What have been the hydropower industry's major achievements over the past 15 years? What would you like to see happen over the next 15?
Maryse François-Xausa: Half of the ten highest installed capacity hydro power plants were completed in the last 15 years. These five hydro plants have a collective installed capacity of over 55GW more than that of Turkey which has the 19th highest installed capacity in the world. Examples include Three Gorges and Xiangjiaba. Variable speed technology is also a major achievement, although the technology is older than 15 years, it was the boom in renewable energy sources that has put this technology in the forefront.
Simon Hamlyn: That hydropower is responsible for producing 20% of the world's electricity and 90% of the world's renewable power.
Charles Field: The last 15 years have been characterised by a dramatic rise and demonstration of a range of other renewable energy solutions. Yet, through this period, hydropower has maintained its leading position in the renewable energy mix.
Hydropower has remained relevant in two important ways. It's proven its ability to offset the short term variability of solar and wind power generation, and the advent of new equipment manufacturers within the industry has also afforded owners with additional choices for developing hydropower resources.
These developments have started to build a broader appreciation of the applicability and viability of hydropower. This education and discourse must continue at all levels, through university engagement that continue to attract interest and innovation into the sector right to greater engagement of the governments and financial communities.
For example, while benefits of expanding pumped storage capacity are clear, many market structures and regulatory frameworks do not present an effective means of achieving this goal. Policy changes are needed to support the timely development of additional grid-scale energy storage.
Likewise, smaller scale hydropower is a viable and sustainable off-the-grid solution. Micro and mini-hydro applications can play an important role bringing electricity to rural villages in many under-developed countries.
Martina Steinkusz: In 2010 nearly 21,800 SH plants were in operation. It is expected that the overall SH number should reach up to 24,000 by 2020. Installed capacity is projected to increase from 12.4GW to 17.3GW and electricity generation from 42.1 to 59.7TWh/yr over the period 2005 to 2020. This results in an augmentation of nearly 40%.
Now, small hydropower is able to supply electricity to over 13M EU households. This contributes to annual avoidance of 29M tonnes of CO2, which translates into annual avoided CO2 costing about €766M.
Over the past few years, ESHA has regularly managed to secure important positions for the small hydropower sector within EU renewable energy policies, research funding, support schemes, and fairer water rights.
ESHA advocates the sector's interests and campaigns for an increase in small hydropower development; is working to promote the reactivation of up to 350, 000 former hydro plants and sites across Europe; manages the unique comprehensive databases on EU small hydropower sector and has helped triple the EU's research budget for hydropower issues, from €10M to €30M for the new five-year funding period starting from 2014.
ESHA's priorities now include a continuous programme of engagement in the preparation for a revised, hydropower-friendly, Water Framework Directive in 2017. The Commission will start this task from 2015 onwards. This is the opportunity to reverse negative impacts of the current Directive to allow new advantages for the small hydropower's industry and its function.
Other future achievements should include stability and fair market rules, especially concerning permit granting, technical rules and in the financial environment (tariffs). In the future licensing should rely on simple, fair, solid and transparent criteria suitable with SHP scale promoting a faster and more predictable result in the outcome. Thus, for the following years specific guidelines and training programs could be envisaged to better coordinate between the national and regional authorities responsible for this process.
With the increasing amount of intermittent renewable energy production by wind and solar energy facilities, energy storage and grid stabilization is a prominent issue. There is a need to improve synergies between SHP and smart grids. Besides large hydropower, also SHP can play a role, especially where it is possible to combine it with small basins and integrate it in hybrid systems. More research should be promoted on this aspects and a dedicated regulatory framework should be enforced. Thus, a further achievement for the SHP sector would be a reduction of barriers for the development of very small hydropower concerning the technical requirements of grid connection and allow direct SHP-borne energy deliveries to nearby users. The role of SHP in future smart grids is not yet sufficiently recognised and therefore not supported by legislative and administrative activity.
Adama Nombre: The main achievement in the last 15 years in our mind is the improvement of project assessment and preparation to ensure that projects implemented and operated are sustainable and will provide the best services to people and nations. A lot of effort has been made in innovation by the profession to create new technologies and tools and to implement the best practices for this purpose.
This has led to a new pace in the development of hydropower that we hope will. In the future the development of multipurpose hydropower storage schemes will be very important to address the diversity of needs in river basins and also the evolving conditions and new requirements in the future. Dams and hydropower are long lasting infrastructures and have to be adaptable in the future.
Richard Taylor: Hydropower has shifted from the energy option of last resort at the beginning of the century, to one which has enjoyed record levels of deployment in recent years. This is because it provides solutions to the world's water energy and climate challenges, and the hydropower sector has become better connected and more strategic in defining project development in the context of sustainability.
Hydropower is increasingly perceived as a development option that is everybody's business. It is essential that a broader understanding of the contribution that hydropower can make is shared by the global community. Hydropower offers more than just electricity; when it is developed strategically, it can provide a spectrum of services, bringing sustainable development and environmental protection. If the sector can find the necessary win-win solutions with the conservation community and adequate benefit-sharing mechanisms with local communities affected by such development, the next 15 years for hydropower will be very bright.
Mike McWilliams: The last 15 years has seen the nadir of the hydro industry. The World Bank and other international financing institutions withdrew from the sector, oil prices dropped drastically, environmental non-governmental organisations lobbied against hydro and attempts were made to force hydro into a private development mould more suited to lower risk gas-fired projects. However around five years ago the World Bank re-engaged with hydro, oil prices rose, non-governmental organisations realised that hydro is part of the solution to sustainable low-carbon electricity, and we are also starting to make headway of risk allocation to mobilise commercial funds. There is still more to do, however the industry is on an upwards trajectory and will make great contributions to international development and poverty alleviation for years to come.
Linda Church Ciocci: Perhaps the greatest achievement is its daily contribution to the nation's electricity grid - clean, low cost and low emitting power with remarkable longevity. It shores up our grid system and is one of the most reliable power sources on our planet, while providing more recreation hours than any other energy resource. That's a great achievement in and of itself.
But perhaps more remarkable is the turnaround that has occurred over the last 15 years in how hydropower is perceived. It is much more positively viewed by policymakers and the public alike. Much of that turnaround is directly attributable to industry stepping up on its environmental commitment, the deployment of new technologies and new operation methods that protect fish and aquatic habitat. The industry can be very proud of its record!
Over the next 15 years I would like to see a continuation of the growth trend, both in terms of clean megawatts on the gird and our environmental stewardship. Hydropower is an important and integral partner as we combat climate change and work to reverse the effects of global warming. Yet often hydropower is not recognised for the important contributions it has already made and what it will do in the future. I'd like to see more appreciation of that value and less taking hydropower for granted.
If we don't understand the value, don't understand the importance of preserving that value in the future, the policies so necessary for hydropower to remain competitive will dissipate, and with it, we could very well lose one of the best weapons in our arsenal to protect our children's future, grow our economy, and create more opportunity.