Reconciling the Interests of Hydropower and Environmental Protection in the Danube River Basin

Philip Weller¹

 

 

 

¹ International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River Basin, D0412, Wagramer Strasse 5, A-1220 Vienna, Austria, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Abstract

Within the Danube Region there have been significant efforts in recent years to improve and secure long-term water quality; these efforts are coordinated by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River Basin (ICPDR).  The countries of the Danube river basin have produced the Danube River Basin Management Plan (DRBMP), a comprehensive and systematic assessment of the status of Danube waters that also includes a plan for improving the quality of water and bringing it to the status defined by the EU WFD. Among the factors identified in the DRBMP as negatively affecting the quality of waters in the Danube region, is hydropower production. This paper outlines the process and initial results of an innovative and constructive process that has been undertaken in the Danube River Basin to understand the status of hydropower production in each country and to develop guiding principles for future development. The paper uses extensively text and products of the ICPDR prepared in connection with the Guiding Principles for Hydropower Development in the Danube Basin.

Keywords: Danube River, ICPDR, The Danube River Basin Management Plan, hydropower, guiding principles, Water Framework Directive, Danube Strategy

 

Introduction

 

Within the Danube Region there have been significant efforts in recent years to improve and secure long-term  water quality. At the basin-wide level this effort has been coordinated by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River Basin (ICPDR). The Danube River Basin Management Plan produced by the countries of the Danube river basin in the framework of their activities within the ICPDR is a comprehensive and systematic assessment of the status of Danube waters and includes a plan for improving the quality of water and bringing it to the status defined by the EU Water Framework Directive.

Among the factors identified in the Danube River Basin Management Plan as negatively affecting the quality of waters in the Danube region, is hydropower production, which has in a number of instances caused interruption of fish and other species migration and changed the character of the river stretch where such facilities have been built. The hydropower facilities causing such impacts are both small and large (small < 10 MW and large > 10 MW).  The water managers of the Danube river basin have therefore acknowledged that if they are to improve and maintain the water quality of water within the Danube then a dialogue and cooperation needs to exist along with hydropower interests.

This is particularly the case because many of the countries of the Danube have identified hydropower as an important contributor to their future energy supply and in particular in reaching the targets of the renewable energy directive of the EU or the commitments made under the Energy Community.

This paper outlines the process and initial results of an innovative and constructive process that has been undertaken in the Danube River Basin to understand the status of hydropower production in each country and to develop guiding principles for future development. This process was initiated by the ICPDR following a Ministerial meeting in February 2010 where Ministers in charge of water management in the Danube countries stressed the need to reach out to other sectors which influence water quality and to help ensure that water resource management in the Danube River Basin was achieving sustainable utilization of water resources. Acknowledging the challenge of sustainable hydropower development in the frame of the existing legal and policy framework, the ICPDR was asked in the Danube Declaration 20101, "to organise in close cooperation with the hydropower sector and all relevant stakeholders a broad discussion process with the aim of developing guiding principles on integrating environmental aspects in the use of existing hydropower plants, including a possible increase of their efficiency, as well as in the planning and construction of new hydropower plants".

 


1 Danube Declaration adopted at the Ministerial Meeting, February 16, 2010. Available online: http://www.icpdr.org/main/resources/danube-declaration-0

The Status of Hydropower production in the Danube basin

Hydropower has an important role in meeting the energy needs in many Danube countries. Danube region hydropower production is currently a very important element of the energy production of countries such as Austria, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia. In Austria over 50% of the total electricity production comes from hydropower. In relation to other renewable energy sources Danube countries hydropower is also of great importance. Four countries: Bosnia and Herzegovia, Serbia, Romania and Slovenia, have a current share of hydropower from renewable energy sources above 90%.

 

 

Fig01

Current electricity production from hydropower and from renewable energy sources, in GWh/year

 

Fig02

Relation between number of stations and installed hydropower capacity, in MW

 

  Fig03

Relation between number of hydropower stations and hydropower generation, in GWh/year