The celebration of small hydropower projects as clean, green and indispensable for a renewable energy transition seems to be going stronger than ever. But the evidence on its devastating effects on river ecosystems and its minimal contribution to energy supply is growing, too.
In a recent study, researchers of NOVA University Lisbon evaluated the economic viability and energy productivity of existing and planned small hydropower projects in the European Mediterranean region. They found that currently, small hydropower can potentially cover at best 2.6% of gross electricity consumption and 0.47% of primary energy consumption. The real contribution is likely much lower.
And they gave a crushing prediction for the 5.748 projects waiting to be built/completed: although their construction would double the number of existing small hydropower plants and imply huge expenditures – often from public spending – as well as devastating impacts on the environment, the overall energy contribution of small hydro would not even increase by 50%. Even less so as climate change continues to affect the flow of our rivers. Investments in energy efficiency and emerging technologies, such as photovoltaic, would be more cost effective, according to their findings.
Find the study HERE
More information about the devastating impact of small hydropower can be found in the brochure Death by a thousand cuts