According to the sector association Eurelectric, hydro power accounted for approximately 16 per cent of the EU's electricity generation and about 54 per cent of total renewable electricity generation in 2013.
Hydro power in Europe
The construction of a large-scale hydro power plant requires the right kind of watercourse. The proportion of hydro power in the energy mix of countries such as Sweden, France and Austria, which have large differences in altitude and suitable watercourses, is therefore very high. Hydro power comprises over 99 per cent of total electricity generation in Norway, Europe's largest hydro power producer. Countries such as Denmark, Germany and Poland, on the other hand, do not possess the conditions suitable for hydro power.
Conflict between global and local considerations
Hydro power has very little impact on the climate and environment in the wider perspective. But large-scale hydro power does have a major impact on the environment in direct proximity to the plant and watercourse. This leads to distinct conflicts of interest.
Growing concerns about global warming have boosted the general public's perception of hydro power and it is now viewed as part of the solution to the climate change problem. The issue is not whether hydro power is positive or negative, but rather how many unspoiled watercourses should be preserved and how to increase biodiversity in developed rivers.
The natural water cycle
- Solar heat evaporates water.
- Water vapour rises, condenses and forms clouds.
- Precipitation from clouds.
- Solar heat evaporates water and so on.