WFD – Power industry and economic evaluation of the potential impact of the implementation of the EU-Water Framework Directive on hydropower

The EU-Water Framework Directive (WFD) presents a huge challenge for the Austrian water economy. The guideline engages all members from the European Union to restore the quality target of all waters to “good condition” until 2015. The evaluation of the waters’ condition primarily follows water ecology criteria, which often results in a conflict with the original use of the waters. The WFD also contains economic criteria and basic approaches. In case the restoration of the good condition has a bad influence on specific uses of the water, it is possible to apply the category of “heavily modified bodies of water”, which would set status “good ecological potential” instead of “good ecological status” as an obligatory goal. The economic assessment has an important role for the possible usage of the exemption clause (extension of time, less strict quality targets). These clauses are written in the water rights act (WRG), but require an explanation in individual cases.

In Austria especially, an alpine land, where the water usage plays a major role because of the landscape, an exact analysis of the potential impact on the water framework directive concerning any use is important. Hydropower utilization has a huge influence: About 2/3 of Austria’s generated electric power is produced by the use of hydropower.

The aim of the current study is to find an ecological and economic optimum for the implementation of the water rights act that maintains the amount and quality of Austria’s primary energy sources and that also achieves the ecological goals stated in the water rights act. Simultaneously, sustainable use of the water resources should be guaranteed.

Based on scenario models, the bandwidth of possible consequences are to be highlighted that can be expected to support the energy economy in implementing certain measures to achieve a “good status”. Scenarios to be investigated include residual water allocation, surge limit and production of consistency. Hydroelectric plants of less than 10MW (small power plants). river powerplants over 10 MW and storage power plants are investigated separately.


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