EREF is the European federation of national renewable energy associations from across EU Members States representing all renewable energy sectors. Since more than 20 years, the federation defends the interests of independent power, fuel and heating and cooling-production from renewable sources and promotes nondiscriminatory access to the energy market.


EREF’s Small Hydropower Chapter, composed of national (small) hydropower associations from EU Member States, represents the interest of the European small hydropower sector by promoting the benefits and opportunities of small hydropower at EU level to secure and enhance its place as an equally important part in the EU renewable energy mix and to create business opportunities for the many small and medium-sized enterprises throughout Europe.
Considering the climate crisis and the impact of the war in the Ukraine on the European energy system, accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources is absolutely the solution. For that, we need an enabling framework and culture for permitting processes for a fast and steep uptake of renewables.


Diversifying supply has always been a core principle of energy system security. Together with wind and solar PV, Europe can rely on a range of sustainable sources, incl. geothermal, solar heat, wave, hydro, concentrated solar power, bioenergy, and tidal energy. EREF’s RESTOR Hydro database for example lists more than 50,000 abandoned and potential small hydropower sites in EU Member States, out of an estimated number of 280,000. Collectively these renewable sources can provide decarbonised energy at any point in the day, season, or year, and keep our systems in balance.


The role for small hydropower in the new European energy systems goes far beyond the production of renewable electricity. Its increasingly important purpose lies in providing energy system services and flexibility to facilitate the integration of large amounts of variable renewable energy sources (VRE) into electricity grids. Small hydropower plants are resistant in times of climate change and its multi-purpose functions can provide groundwater stabilisation, drinking water production, flood protection and help to mitigate droughts. In crisis times, small hydropower can supply critical infrastructure with electricity in thousands of bigger and smaller places around EU Member states.


Members of EREF Small hydropower Chapter have provided already detailed input to the mapping of the permit granting and grid connection procedures for renewable energy technologies in EU Member states carried out by the consortium of the EU project RES Simplify. Next to wind and solar, there is a specific chapter on the small hydropower sector including detailed recommendations for decision-makers.


Please find hereafter a summary of main obstacles for hydropower development and our recommendations on how to overcome them. We would like to encourage the Commission to integrate them in its planned guidance document together with the findings and recommendations of the RES Simplify project. EREF is convinced that the setup of this guidance document needs to go hand in hand with further efforts the EU institutions need to do under the current legislative procedures, e.g., the debates on RED III and environmental legislation. We furthermore call for more flexibly under the CEEAG rules.

Full text can be found in attached PDF.

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