Major new initiative launched to showcase new hydro technologies

11 December 2019

An €18million four-year project has been launched that will showcase new and innovative hydropower technologies and support the integration of variable renewables such as wind and solar into the power grid.

The major new energy innovation project to demonstrate how smart hydropower technologies can deliver a low-carbon, reliable and resilient power system was launched yesterday by the European Commission and a consortium of 19 partners at the United Nations climate change conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. 

The XFLEX HYDRO (Hydropower Extending Power System Flexibility) project is a four-year initiative by leading utilities, equipment manufacturers, universities, research centres and consultancies. It will demonstrate how modern hydropower plants can provide the vital power grid services required by variable renewables such as wind and solar power.

The launch comes after a major UN Emissions Gap Report looking at ways to reduce global carbon emissions said that greater power system flexibility was “key” to integrating larger shares of variable renewable energy into the power supply. 
The XFLEX HYDRO technologies to be tested are enhanced variable- and fixed-speed turbine systems, smart controls and a battery-turbine hybrid, each of which will be demonstrated at hydropower plant sites across Europe. 

The project will conclude in 2023 by delivering a roadmap to increase adoption of the technologies across the hydropower fleet, with policy and market recommendations for governments, regulators and industry.

The initiative has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It aims to help the EU achieve a target of achieving 32% of energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Project partners are:

  • Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
  • Alpiq 
  • Andritz AT 
  • Andritz CH 
  • ARMINES 
  • CEA (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) 
  • EDF 
  • EDP CNET 
  • EDP Gestão da Produção da Energia, S.A 
  • GE Renewable Energy
  • HES SO 
  • The International Hydropower Association (IHA) 
  • INESC TEC 
  • Power Vision Engineering 
  • SuperGrid Institute 
  • UPC 
  • USTUTT 
  • Voith Hydro
  • ZABALA

“Combining the excellence and expertise of 19 partners from across Europe, the XFLEX HYDRO project will test innovative solutions based on renewable energy sources that will provide greater flexibility and sustainability to the energy system," commented Patrick Child, Deputy Director-General for the European Commission’s Directorate-General Research and Innovation. "The project aims to increase hydropower’s potential in terms of plant efficiency, thereby boosting electrical power systems and enabling plant and system operators to operate more successfully in electricity markets. This can make an impactful contribution to European renewable energy objectives and policies.”

Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), which is responsible for XFLEX HYDRO project communications, said: “We need to decarbonise the power sector, and fast, if we are to limit the devastating impacts of climate change. Last month’s UN Emissions Gap Report is a stark reminder that we need hydropower to boost the contribution of variable renewables like wind and solar. The XFLEX HYDRO initiative represents a clear commitment by the European Commission, leading organisations from the hydropower sector and academia to invest in new and innovative hydropower technologies.”


Launch event speakers (left to right): Richard Taylor (Executive Adviser, IHA), Patrick Child (Deputy Director-General, EU Commission), Sara Goulartt (EDP), Antoine Badinier (EDF), with Minoru Takada (UN DESA) who hosted the launch at the UN DESA SDG pavilion at COP25.



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