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Hydropower in the Alps

Oct 07, 2021
How much hydropower use is environmentally compatible and ecologically sustainable? This question has been on the minds of people in the Alpine region for decades - all the more so against the backdrop of the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels. There are currently around 21,000 hydropower plants in operation in Europe, 300 under construction and over 8,500 in the planning stage. In many places, climate change with its imponderables such as extreme floods is being countered with more dams and walls, although river widening, for example, would make more ecological sense.
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CIPRA has therefore drawn up five demands on the use of hydropower:

  1. Politicians and industry must plan far-sightedly to save as much energy as possible instead of producing more and more kilowatt hours.
  2. Existing hydropower plants must be renovated and superfluous power plants removed before new ones are built.
  3. The last freshwater pearls must be protected. Intact rivers and river sections as well as mountain streams must not be used for energy production.
  4. So-called "small hydropower" is only useful for local needs in isolated locations. It does not belong in regional or national energy planning.
  5. It is important to expand knowledge and cooperation on hydropower utilisation across countries.

The position paper on hydropower use also contains detailed derivations of the demands and a broad fund of background information.