In an open letter published on 6 February, an alliance of more than 100 European NGOs considers the EU’s bet on hydropower to ensure the energy transition irresponsible.
The European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and its Living Rivers Europe coalition partners are calling on the EU institutions to limit the use of hydropower to achieve the objectives included in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), currently being discussed between the European Parliament and the Council in the final phase of the EU legislative procedure (the trilogues). Indeed, with its Renewable Energy Directive (RED) proposal, the European Commission aims at raising the share of renewable energy sources in EU final energy consumption by 2030.
However, the current text does not foresee any restrictions to the contribution of hydroelectricity to achieving the objectives set. The Directive also fails to acknowledge the direct impacts of hydropower plants on freshwater ecosystems. New hydroelectric power dams could be constructed in the « go-to » zones of protected areas. This legislation would therefore be in direct contradiction with the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the upcoming Nature Restoration Law, which aim at setting a 30% restoration target for marine habitats.
The construction of new hydroelectric dams would have a devastating impact on the already fragile EU river ecosystems. Indeed, the EU is the world region with the most barriers in its rivers, preventing the aquatic species – and in particular the migratory fishes – to complete their life cycles and reproduce. According to WWF's Living Planet Report 2022 and Bringing Life Back to Europe’s Waters report, water dams are the main driver behind the largest global decline in freshwater species populations since 1970 (83%). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species further warns that 37% of freshwater fishes are threatened today ; making it the most threatened of Europe’s vertebrates.
You can access the NGOs’ coalition open letter here.