Today, energy leaders gathered in Switzerland to gain insights into a range of technological enhancements implemented in hydropower plants throughout Europe. These upgrades are designed to facilitate the energy transition and enhance the stability of the power grid.

The enhancements form part of the XFLEX HYDRO project, a four-year, €18 million research and innovation initiative. Leveraging internationally-acknowledged expertise, the project undertook a comprehensive examination and showcased the feasibility of augmenting the flexibility of existing hydropower plants through the application of advanced software solutions and modest technological upgrades. This initiative represents an advancement in comprehending the advantages inherent in hydropower and its capacity to furnish essential stability services to the power grid.

The digital enhancements introduced by XFLEX HYDRO signify a departure from conventional hardware-centric modernization strategies. By bolstering the capability of hydropower plants to furnish not only baseline and peak power but also vital grid stability services, the project has revealed new potential value.

The event, held at the Aula Des Cèdres, in Lausanne, explored a series of upgrades, including: hydropower turbine and battery hybrid, variable speed turbines, as well as new and optimised operational modes. Some 250 participants discussed some of the hottest topics in the board room of energy companies and in technology centres around the world and offered an opportunity to get industry professionals, policy-makers and influencers on the same page. Conversations spanned critical themes such as preparing for the energy transition, addressing the challenges posed by intermittent renewable energy, and maximizing the potential of hydropower assets.

“The European Union’s vision for 2050 hinges on renewable energy sources constituting over 80% of its energy, a significant leap from 37.5% in 2020,” said Eddie Rich, CEO of the International Hydropower Association (IHA). “This means that sustainable hydropower will continue to play a central role in Europe’s clean energy transition in the coming years. The extent to which the technology will contribute to this target will depend on our ability to take full advantage of its benefits.

“We are proud to work alongside expert partners from across Europe on the XFLEX HYDRO journey and look forward to more collaboration in the coming years. The decarbonisation of European electricity will inevitably involve significant clean, green, modern and affordable hydropower. XFLEX HYDRO lights the path.”

Amédée Murisier, Head of Hydropower at Alpiq, added:  “Alpiq already has flexible assets like Nant de Drance and is seeking to extend the flexibility of its portfolio with state-of-the-art technologies to contribute to an improved security of supply. The XFLEX HYDRO project has enabled us to progress with this while strengthening our strategic partnerships with universities and schools.”

“The XFLEX HYDRO project has been of great importance to the Generation platform at EDP Group,” commented Joana Freitas, Board Member at EDP Generation. “Not only has it allowed us to reflect on the importance of the hydro fleet in achieving increasing flexibility, but it has also innovatively challenged EDP’s engineers and technological partners to go beyond in optimizing existing assets without significant need for intensive capital expenditure.  For 4 years, besides having tested and successfully achieved all our set objectives, it also contributed to challenging the community of interested partners and generating scientific knowledge. We are looking forward to implementing what we have learned in our assets, thereby promoting hydroelectric generation as a critical player on net-zero mission.”

“Modernising existing plants and enabling them to provide their full potential is essential to the present and future of hydropower in Europe, especially given the increased requirements with regards to flexibility. In that sense, the XFLEX HYDRO project has already provided tangibles benefits for EDF’s participating plants,” said Emmanuelle Verger-Chabot, CEO of EDF Hydro.

The XFLEX HYDRO project, supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, involved 19 leading organizations in the hydropower and broader energy sectors.