Hydropower is considered a study model for renewable energy, but the available capacities have long been exhausted. A new study now says: With modernization, Germany could once again produce more energy from hydropower.

Fossil fuel-based energy production methods will gradually give way to sustainable solutions. Solar and wind energy will replace oil and coal fueled energy; At least those are the plans of the federal government. However, there is another alternative that has been largely forgotten in recent years: hydroelectric power.

Energy sector: Is it worth expanding hydropower?

According to the Federal Association of German Hydroelectric Power Plants, there are currently around 7,300 hydroelectric power plants in the Federal Republic alone. Together they have an installed capacity of around 5,600 megawatts (MW) and can therefore supply electricity to almost 5.7 million homes each year. According to a new study by the Energy Watch Group, this figure could soon rise to nine million, a fifth of all households in Germany.

The non-profit think tank assumes that hydropower in this country has the potential to “generate clean, natural and ecologically beneficial electricity for all households in East Germany.” The goal of the #Hydropower 2030 initiative is to be able to deliver 28 terawatt hours (TWh) per year with 7.1 gigawatts (GW) of additional energy. For comparison: according to the Tagesschau, a medium-sized nuclear power plant produces an average power of just under 1.2 GW.

“Modern repowering and modernization measures with fish-friendly systems can not only eliminate biases, but also improve aquatic ecology and preserve biodiversity,” the researchers write in their press release. Furthermore, the technology enjoys great approval among the population. At 88 percent, it is just behind solar rooftops.

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Old prejudices, new fish ladders

Hydropower can cause environmental degradation and habitat loss. The construction of dams often affects biodiversity and can reduce water supply downstream. In addition, sediment accumulates in reservoirs, which reduces the useful life and efficiency of the systems, right?

In its study, the Energy Watch Group points out that many of these statements are outdated prejudices. Modern technology means that “repowering and modernization measures with modern fish-permeable systems not only eliminate old prejudices.” With their help we can also improve water ecology, groundwater formation and climate protection and thus preserve biodiversity.

Hans-Josef Fell, one of the fathers of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) and president of the Energy Watch Group, explains: “Hydropower can be fast, grid-friendly, ecologically advantageous and expand the performance of renewable energy in communities and towns by reviving historic systems and repowering. We call on politicians to reverse the trend and promote hydropower, through EEG and approval practices.”