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Energy and nature in the Alps: a balancing act

May 21, 2015
The Alps offer great potential for renewable energy production. But this simultaneously increases the pressure on nature. The partners in the international project have found ways to ensure this balancing act succeeds. They will be presenting their results at the final conference to be held on 20-21 May 2015 in Sonthofen, Germany.
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When we use water, biomass, wind and sun for the production of energy in the Alps, this all benefits the climate. Yet the production of renewable energy can also have negative effects on the various services provided by nature, such as clean drinking water. The project is contributing to the sustainable use of landscapes where ecosystems can continue to operate and provide services for people, while at the same time improving power generation.

The experts have estimated the potential of renewable energy from wind, water, forest biomass and solar energy in the Alpine countries. They have developed scenarios to recognise any conflicts of aims with nature conservation, environmental protection and other ecosystem services. A decision support system has also been developed for politicians and energy producers, which has for example shown that hydropower generation could be increased by 10% in an economically and ecologically sustainable way. Chris Walzer of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna describes the challenge: “The results generated by our decision support system merely provide a basis for discussion. Decisions are only balanced once all stakeholders have been heard and a solution found that permits all parties to achieve the greatest possible consensus”.

More fish-friendly use of hydropower

To ensure that the results of the project can be implemented in practice and optimised on the basis of actual experience, the partners have tested the instruments and models in pilot areas and examined their transferability to other Alpine regions. The pilot areas have informed the local and regional stakeholders as well as the public of the results. In Bavaria, for example, the use of hydropower on the River Upper Iller was investigated and different measures to improve the (fish-) ecological potential have been developed, as Gerhard Haimerl of the Bayerische Elektrizitätswerke GmbH (Bavarian electricity company) explains.

Project results attract international attention

Under the motto “Balancing Alpine energy and nature”, the project partners will be presenting their findings to the public on 20 and 21 May 2015 at the final conference to be held in Sonthofen, Germany. Some 100 participants from every Alpine country will witness a demonstration of the decision support system created by Representatives from the pilot areas will report on their experiences of the processes developed for resolving conflicts of aims between energy use, nature and landscape. There will also be external contributions to the programme, for example from Swiss expert Astrid Björnsen Gurung or from Georg Bayerle, the Bavarian broadcasting service’s specialist in mountains and the environment.


Chris Walzer, Lead Partner
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
[email protected]
+43 1 489091 5180, + 43 664 105 49 67

Aurelia Ullrich-Schneider, communication management
CIPRA International, Schaan, Liechtenstein
[email protected]
+423 237 53 08, +43 699 113 377 24

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