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24 Nov 2020, 13:26
Charlotte Nijhuis

Hesse's hydropower operators anxious water protection decree will stifle business model

Hydropower plant operators in the central German state of Hesse are fighting what they consider to be too strict and unjustified environmental regulations, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. A minimum water decree that limits the amount of water in the mill ditch in order to protect the rivers' ecosystem's has been in force in the state for several years and is blamed for decreasing the electricity generation and therefore the income of plant operators. According to the Working Group of Hessian Hydroelectric Power Plants (AHW), a large part of the 621 water mills are threatened with extinction due to the minimum water decree.
Hydropower only accounts for three to four percent of electricity generation in Hesse, but "hydropower electricity is not measured by the number of kilowatt hours, but by the quality of the electricity”, AHW chairman Helge Beyer told the newspaper. It is generated continuously and can compensate for fluctuations in wind and sun power generation. Although hydropower is a completely carbon-free way of producing energy, environmentalists are critical of it. The German branch of Friends of the Earth (BUND) recently declared that the minimum water decree protects fish in streams and rivers from dying en masse due to climate change-induced water scarcity.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Environment (BMU) said that renewable energies must be promoted, while at the same time everything possible must be done to preserve biodiversity. "Electricity from hydropower is sustainable if the negative effects on the aquatic ecology do not outweigh the negative impacts. The EU Water Framework Directive, which prescribes that streams and rivers must be brought into a good condition, is also behind this,” she told FAZ.

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