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Current Issues

Hydropower in Europe
November 9, 2010

The Alps, Scandinavia and South-eastern Europe rich in opportunities

Hydropower offers a host of benefits. The technologies involved are very

Energy and climate change

mature. Hydropowers advantages over fossil-fuel-based electricity are that it does not cause any climate-damaging emissions and that no fuel purchase costs are incurred. Furthermore, small-scale power plants (so-called small hydro) are widely accepted by the public. Hydropower outscores the new renewables by offering high levels of efficiency and greater flexibility. In addition, it is a multiple-use resource.
Energy price trends and climate change make hydropower a winner.

Hydropower is receiving a strong boost from the rising electricity prices that can be expected as a result of increasing internalisation of climate costs, the growth in global energy consumption and the associated growing scarcity of fossil fuel sources. We expect European electricity prices to rise by an average of around 4% p.a. up until 2030. Major developments are likely to be a significant increase in the price of fossil fuels, rising infrastructure expenditure as well as environmental and climate policy readjustments.
A single European electricity market is forming. The creation of a single

market for electricity has been a regulatory objective ever since the late 1990s. The physical foundations for this are now being laid with key infrastructure projects such as the expansion of interconnection points at the national borders, the completion of the North Sea Ring and the expansion of the high-voltage grid. The isolation of regional markets, such as those that currently exist in Scandinavia or parts of South-eastern Europe, should thus be reduced to a minimum. The trend of rising prices in Europe will thus also benefit the geographically dispersed hydropower projects in more isolated regions.
In Europe nearly 40% of the economically viable hydropower potential is not being tapped, although hydropower is the dominant renewable electricity

source in the world and also in Europe.

Author Josef Auer +49 69 910-31878 Editor Tobias Just Technical Assistant Sabine Berger Deutsche Bank Research Frankfurt am Main Germany Internet: E-mail: Fax: +49 69 910-31877 Managing Director Thomas Mayer

Investment opportunities lie in countries with huge potential in the Alps and in Scandinavia, where hydropower already has a long tradition. The

convergence of regional European electricity markets as well as technical megaprojects like the offshore North Sea Ring will make hydropower plants even more interesting in future.
South-eastern Europe utilises just 40% of its hydropower potential.

Since 60% of the economically viable hydropower potential is still waiting for investors it is worth also taking a look at South-eastern Europe. Specifically because the regions electricity supply largely relied on centrally planned largescale structures for more than half a century means that there are now lots of interesting project opportunities that elsewhere in Europe can only be found in isolated cases.

Current Issues

Hydropower: The worlds No. 1 source of renewable electricity

Hydropower is often underestimated The public often takes relatively little notice of hydropower in comparison with the new renewables such as wind energy or photovoltaics. This is surprising, since hydropower constituted about 16% of total electricity production worldwide in 2007, i.e. much more than windpower, which accounted for 1%, and solar energy, whose share is barely visible in the statistics. Theoretically, the worlds entire demand for electricity could be met by hydropower. Admittedly, this conflicts with the realities of geographically uneven distribution in the worlds regions (roughly 50% in Asia, 30% in the Americas, 10% in Africa and 8% in Europe) as well as with economic rationale, since not everything that is theoretically or technically possible is economically feasible. For example, the dearth of inexpensive facilities for the storage and transport of 1 electricity limits its viability. In the baseline scenario published by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the forecast is for electricity production to increase by 70% in the period up to 2030, with hydropower (at a share of 14%) maintaining its lead over windpower (4%) among the renewables, while solar energy remains at a very 2 low level (1%) despite booming growth rates of 20% p.a.

Hydropowers potential depends on definition

In this context, theoretical potential is defined as the potential energy of all waters (of a region or area) completely regardless of physical, technical and economic limits on usage. Typically, in reality the theoretical potential is converted into useful energy to an only minor degree. For example, when water levels are high, technical and structural restrictions prevent its full use, as quantities of water are allowed to run off unused. The technical potential of hydropower describes the energy capacity that is actually useable when technical, infrastructural, ecological and other conditions are taken into consideration. The technical potential can for example be reduced by ecologically motivated minimum water conditions. The technical potential often amounts to 20-35% of the theoretical potential. The economic potential of hydropower is the part of the technical potential that is economically exploitable in relation to alternative forms of energy. A common criterion is the time needed for the amortisation of capital employed in the life of the respective plant. In this context, parameters such as the investment costs, expectations of electricity prices, the respective discount rate, the costs of alternative fuels and the given supply infrastructure (e.g. interconnection system or island situation) play important roles.
For details see, for example, Horlacher, Hans-Burkhard (2003). Globale Potenziale der Wasserkraft. Berlin, Heidelberg, pp. 7-10.

Strong arguments in favour of more hydropower

As a source of electricity, hydropower offers a host of benefits: Emissions are basically only an issue in the plant construction phase. The extremely long phase of plant operation, by contrast, is largely emission-free. In addition, plant operation requires virtually no materials and supplies, produces at most small amounts of solid waste and generates practically no waste heat. Thanks to negligible CO2 emissions over the full life cycle of hydropower plants of up to 100 years and the still far from exhausted scope for economic exploitation in many countries, the development and upgrading of hydropower is an important instrument in the process of reducing global CO2. Since it does not require any fossil-based primary energy, hydropower provides relief for the energy bill of every country and increases the security of the energy supply. Having hydropower plants in the home market reduces the problem of potential supply disruptions, as has often been the case of late with natural gas, or administered prices, with which OPEC has surprised not only oil consumers over the past few decades. These are all important arguments for financially strapped countries in particular, as are often still to be found in the region of South-eastern Europe. Hydropower also outscores new renewables Among the renewable sources of electrical energy, hydropower is the one with the longest tradition. The first hydropower plants were th built back at the end of the 19 century. Today, about half of the small-scale hydropower plants in Europe are over 60 years old, and no less than two-thirds of them are over 40 years old. The age factor is the reason that traditional hydropower plants are regarded as being very mature in terms of their technology. Efficiency gains may still be realised of course, varying by the case. It is not uncommon though to find plants that have been operating virtually unaltered since the 1920s; nonetheless, they achieve similarly high levels of
1 2

The storage problems surrounding electromobility alone make this abundantly See IEA (2009). World Energy Outlook, p. 623. November 9, 2010

Hydropower in Europe

electricity output to newly-built facilities. Old plants will have to be replaced one day, notwithstanding. Hydropower is highly efficient Hydropower has further advantages over many of the new renewables: one example is efficiency levels of up to 85%. This makes hydropower a more efficient type of electricity generation than solar cells or wind farms, which achieve efficiency levels of 20% and 40%, respectively, in practice. In addition, hydropower is in most cases independent of the time of day, i.e. is not governed by the amount of sunshine or wind speed. This enables sustainable, uninterrupted power generation. Besides, individual types of hydropower generation such as storage power plants are well suited for flexibly bridging temporary demand peaks. All the same, investments in hydropower, as with wind and solar energy, are marked by relatively high initial outlays that are subsequently followed by very low operating costs (less than 1 cent per kWh). This is a major advantage over fossil-fired power plants, where the risk of increasing input costs for coal, natural gas and oil can jeopardise returns. State-of-the-art hydropower plants can pave the way to multiple-use facilities. Improvements in flood protection, shipping conditions and the watercourse downstream from power plants may be integrated. Moreover, agricultural and recreational areas may also benefit, as their attractiveness increases. Small-scale plants have a place in the hydropower spectrum Small hydro plants are typically designed to blend in with nature and the landscape. From an environmental standpoint, this makes them superior to large-scale hydropower plants. The related assessment criteria include, for example, impairment of the landscape, microclimate and water pollution control, the total area affected, soil erosion and sedimentation and, in extreme cases, resettlement with all its concomitant negative repercussions. Various possible uses Indeed, the spectrum of hydropower use is most varied. Hydropowers potential lies not only in new-build projects, however. For one thing, countries offering considerable hydropower potential such as Brazil, China and Russia are continuing to establish largescale generating plants. For another, though, increases in energy costs and the higher weighting of climate protection targets are increasingly resulting in a reactivation and modernisation of old small hydro plants. Moreover, relatively new types of power plant, some of which are still in the infancy of their technological development, are enjoying increasing popularity in the harnessing of 3 hydropower. These include wave, ocean and tidal power plants. This all points to major, as yet untapped hydropower potential. Portfolio effects of green power generation often underestimated Occasionally it is argued that the massive build-up of wind energy and photovoltaic systems as well as albeit to a lesser degree small hydro will result in the quality of power supply suffering because of the rising number of decentralised feeders. Reference is made in this context to the erratic behaviour of the winds, to the fact that the sun does not always shine, and to the fluctuations in precipitation volumes. These phenomena and the resulting

Selected types of hydropower plant

Conventional dam Run-of-river Storage reservoir Pumped-storage Tidal Ocean-current Wave
Source: DBR

See GDV (2008). Erneuerbare Energien. Gesamtberblick ber den technologischen Entwicklungsstand und das technische Gefhrdungspotenzial, pp. 49-54. 3

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Current Issues

Virtual power plants can even out temporary shortfalls

challenges have now been identified. And the renewable power generation industry has long since come up with solutions. The result has been so-called virtual power plants, where the various types of power generation with their respective strengths are interconnected intelligently, and temporary weaknesses (e.g. the lack of sunshine at night) can thus be cancelled out. Virtual power plants that mainly use renewable energies naturally have many environmental benefits. While the argument that investments in small hydro are fraught with risk because of fluctuations in precipitation or meltwater is not false in respect of individual facilities, the establishment of several plants in different locations that are as far away from each other as possible can also generate a positive portfolio effect. A professionally constructed portfolio of different hydropower plants thus offers a level of supply similar in quality to that delivered by a traditional group of power stations. Moreover, thanks to intelligent management of power generation there is also the chance of using temporary high-price phases, which invariably reoccur on Europes electricity exchanges, to boost earnings. This is one important reason why hydropower plants such as pumped-storage reservoir systems (in the Alps or Scandinavia) may well become more interesting in future than to date. However, there is still room for improvement on the forecast quality for expected water volumes. Shortened forecast horizons would benefit the optimised use of the hydropower portfolio.

Portfolio effect enables high supply quality

Hydropower increasingly attracting investor interest thanks to energy price trend and climate change
Energy prices and the political measures towards CO2 reduction impact investment in hydropower in various ways. Decisions on power plant projects are directly influenced by expectations concerning the price of energy inputs, the price elasticity of energy demand and the availability of competitive domestic sources of energy. Measures to decarbonise industry may indirectly increase the cost of using fossil fuels and thus raise questions about all the related calculations. Moreover, the prices of procuring and transporting the energy inputs are by no means constant, since (unexpected) fuel price increments may also jeopardise the profitability of investments. Long-term binding of capital requires professional investment planning Hydropower investments require a precise estimate of future risks and opportunities, since they may involve tying up capital for up to 100 years. Since the turn of the century at the latest, the parameters of investment planning have changed substantially. The key factors now are three major trends that gained significance over the last decade and in our estimation are likely to shape developments in st the 21 century: First, the densely populated countries of Asia China and India in particular will exert a steadily increasing influence on the energy market. China, for instance, is currently active worldwide in a bid to secure itself energy reserves. This in turn will reduce European energy companies room for manoeuvre. Given Chinas abundant foreign-exchange reserves in combination with its predictably increasing appetite for energy, this trend is in fact likely to strengthen going forward. This is compounded by the fact that other expanding economies that are equally poorly endowed with energy reserves (e.g. South Korea, India) are increasingly likely to follow the Chinese pattern. This complicated situation ultimately argues in turn for further increases in energy
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Hydropower in Europe

prices in future despite all efforts in the industrial countries to throttle energy consumption by boosting efficiency. The second factor is the uptrend in the price of fossil fuels which back in the late 1990s when the key fossil fuel, petroleum, at times tested lows of less than USD 10 per barrel was scarcely considered possible in many quarters. We expect the price of oil to explode over the coming two decades in particular, to USD 200 per barrel in real terms in 2030. The prices of the other fossil fuels, i.e. coal and natural gas, always used to follow the price of oil, which for them is a quasi-benchmark. The rising prices of fossil-based electricity generation up to at least 2030 naturally plays into the hands of alternative generators such as producers of hydropower. As hydropower plants are often already profitable today, the implication is that they will become even more attractive in the decades ahead. And the general energy price trend is a strong argument for new investment, too. Thanks to Germanys central geographical position and the size of its electricity market, it assumes particular significance for electricity pricing in Europe. Third, CO2 mitigation policy is increasingly having an impact on investment in new and existing power generating plants.This holds in Europe in particular, where emission-rich types of power generation are increasingly encountering extra hurdles (e.g. emission certificates) and public protests. Therefore, in future the costs of emissions will increasingly be charged to those who cause them. In other words, ultimately, the consumption of fossil fuels will tend to become more expensive, which in turn will improve the comparative profitability of zero-carbon energies such as hydropower. The central climate-policy instrument in Europe is emissions trading. Generally, we expect the price of emission certificates to rise in Europe over the next few decades. The extra costs for CO2 consumption in fossil-fuelled power plants are additional profits for zero-carbon plants using hydropower, for instance. There are good reasons to expect that the three megatrends discussed will make a good case for new investment in hydropower plants. The implications of the three trends have to be regarded as different from those of the sizeable investments necessary to adapt the electricity infrastructure over the coming decades to the emerging requirements of the times. These include not least the investments in optimising the European power grids; this involves not only the expansion of high-tension networks for windpower transport and interconnection points for cross-border supply but also the issue of demand management. True, the high costs that arise here will ultimately also boost the price of electricity. Nonetheless, they will apply to all types of power generation, so they do not argue per se only in favour of renewables, let alone hydropower. By 2030, the IEA expects EU-wide investment to total USD 0.21 tr for the area of transmission, USD 0.62 tr for distribution, and nearly USD 1.5 tr for 4 power generation.

German energy policy influences European energy prices

It is currently up in the air how the prolongation of the lifetime of Germanys nuclear power plants (NPPs) and the introduction of a tax on nuclear fuel rods will impact the price of electricity in Europe. No doubt this extension will have a pricemitigating effect in the European electricity market. Assuming that the 12-year extension is upheld, this effect will kick in between 2020 and 2030, since all planning for this period to date has not factored in Germanys NPP capacities. Nonetheless, the effect is by no means sufficient to reverse the general electricity price trend in Europe. By contrast, Germanys new nuclear fuel rod tax will bite much sooner. One interesting issue for electricity price forecasts is who will ultimately have to shoulder the new tax. In our estimation the tax will probably mainly weigh on the electricity companies. While the new nuclear tax will raise the NPPs' production costs, these power plants have among the lowest generating costs in Europe, so the additional tax load will have no bearing on electricity volume. In accordance with the merit-order mechanism, conventional power plants are used in the order of their specific power-generating costs (for instance, cheap nuclear power for baseload output). As a consequence, the point at which electricity supply and electricity demand intersect remains unchanged, so more expensive fossil-fuelled (marginal) power plants will continue to determine the price of electricity in Europe. Given that the European electricity market is still far from being a perfectly competitive market, the generators are ultimately likely to pass on their tax-induced cost increases at least in part via their selling prices.

See IEA (2009). World Energy Outlook, p. 103. 5

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Current Issues

EU power plant capacities

2000 (%) 19.1 2.6 22.3

Hydropower is the leading renewable energy source also at plants across Europe
Hydropower accounts for 15% of power generating capacities in Europe. This means that among Europes power plants it also ranks clearly ahead of the new renewables such as wind energy and photovoltaics. The years of generous subsidies for wind and solar energy are helping to narrow the gaps, however. For example, windpower generated merely 2% of electricity capacity in 2000, but by 2009 the share had already risen to 9%. Photovoltaic technology has grown at a similarly brisk pace: after playing virtually no role in 2000 it had already reached a share of close to 2% by 2009. Analysis of Europes power plants from 2000 to 2009 reveals two major trends: First, the electricity industry is banking less and less on coal, nuclear power and oil in its investment decisions. For each of these power generating alternatives, more capacities were removed from the grid than new ones were installed. The net change in capacities installed in the EU totalled minus 12 gigawatts (GW) in the case of coal-fired plant, minus 7.2 GW for nuclear and minus 12.9 GW for oil-based generation. Second, there is a strong trend visible in the power generation sector towards renewable sources of electricity, and thus towards hydropower, as well as natural gas. Net growth in the case of natural gas totalled 81 GW, windpower 65 GW, photovoltaics 13 GW and hydropower 3 GW.


14.5 27.7 11.6 Nuclear Oil Wind Other Coal Natural gas Hydro
Source: EWEA

EU power plant capacities

2009 (%) 15.3 3.8 15.6

9.1 27.9

21.6 Nuclear Oil Wind Other 6.7 Coal Natural gas Hydro
Source: EWEA

Currently, too, the trend towards renewable sources of electricity is continuing across Europe. In 2009, renewables contributed 62% of newly installed power plant capacity. Like one year earlier, the largest share came from windpower, which with its share of 39% is clearly ahead of natural gas (25%). And the future of European 5 power generation also belongs mainly to renewables. Still considerable hydropower potential in Europe

Change in EU power generation capacities

2000-2009*, (GW) Other Oil Coal Nuclear Solar Hydro Wind Natural gas -50 0 50 100 3

The potential of hydropower in Europe is far from being exhausted. In fact, it plays a key role in major, important concepts on Europes future. For example, the offshore grid initiative of the nations lining the North Sea that is meant to produce an additional 100 GW of clean electricity capacities for Europe is also counting on modern hydropower technologies such as pumped-storage generating plants in Norway. These help to better even out the erratic peaks in windpower generation. Without hydropower Europeans would have a very much more difficult time of carrying through on their ambitious climate protection pledges in future. The potential hydropower theoretically to be tapped in Europe (excluding Russia) totals nearly 2,600 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. Currently, 64% of the economically viable potential (870 TWh/year) is being exploited. It follows that Europe leaves no less than 36% of its hydropower potential, or more than 300 TWh/year, 6 unused, even though related power generation would pay off.

* Installed EU power plant capacities: 821 GW Source:EWEA

This is backed not least by the strong political support seen in Europe, e.g. European Climate Foundation (2010). Roadmap 2050 to a prosperous, zerocarbon Europe. Or Environment Minister Rttgens vision of 100% renewable electricity generation in Germany by 2050. See RWE Innogy (2009). Factbook Renewable Energy. November 9, 2010

Hydropower in Europe

South-eastern Europe utilises only 41% of its economic potential Western Europe* fails to utilise 28% of economic hydro potential
TWh/year Theoretical potential Technically possible Economically attractive Current generation 0 737 595 430 500 1000 1500 2000 4 1698

Hydropower potential is not equally distributed across Europe by any means. The EU-15, which has not only the greatest theoretical and technical potential but also has already tapped 72% of the economically viable potential, holds the lead. While the region of South-eastern Europe has only half as much technical potential as the EU-15, it nonetheless is particularly interesting for investors, for merely 41% of the economically attractive hydropower potential is being utilised. The unused potential in South-eastern Europe of 145 TWh/year exceeds that of the region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) by more than 20 times over. And it nearly matches the potential of the EU-15 (165 TWh/year). The reasons why South-eastern Europe has been lagging behind Western Europe are many and varied. One major reason, and perhaps even the most important one, is probably the many lost years behind the Iron Curtain. During this period, the authorities in the East and in the Southeast usually focused on large-scale structures while neglecting decentralised possibilities for generating electricity. It was not until recently that opportunities for decentralised energy supply structures were given a heavier weighting in investment decisions. Moreover, the often politically motivated low electricity prices and the lack of capital and know-how weighed on the propensity to invest. Here, too, a more rational attitude has started to hold sway over the past few years. Major trends make hydropower a winner in Europe

* EU-15 excl. GR, incl. NO, CH Sources: RWE, Eurostat, UCTE, CESR

South-eastern Europe utilises only 41% of economic hydro potential

TWh/year Theoretical potential Technically possible Economically attractive Current generation 0 380 247 102 500 1000 5 763

Sources: RWE, Eurostat, UCTE, CESR

CEECs utilise 81% of economic hydro potential

TWh/year Theoretical potential Technically possible Economically attractive Current generation 0 31 25 50 100 150 6 51 115

Summa summarum, hydropower will clearly be one of the winners in the power plant sector in Europe in the coming decades. The various measures to stop climate change will support the trend towards zero-carbon power generation alternatives. Hydropower is receiving a strong boost from the rising electricity prices that can be expected as a result of increasing internalisation of climate costs, the growth in global energy consumption and the associated increasing relative scarcity of fossil fuel sources. We expect European electricity prices to rise by an average of around 4% p.a. from 2010 up until 2030. Key points are a noticeable increase in the cost of fossil fuels, rising expenditures on infrastructure (from the generating plant right up to the grids) as well as readjustments to environment and climate policy. Furthermore, we look for noticeable advances in the emergence of a truly European electricity market. The physical foundations for this will probably now be laid with key infrastructure projects such as the expansion of interconnection points at the national borders, the completion of the North Sea Ring and the expansion of the high-voltage grid.

Conclusion: There are good reasons for investors to attach greater weight to hydropower in future
Hydropower has good prospects for the future in Europe. While the potential in Scandinavia is well known, the media and investor fora devote little time to the region of South-eastern Europe. This is surprising, since the region still offers considerable untapped, economically viable potential. All major long-term trends indicate that energy prices are going to continue to increase noticeably in future. This makes investing in hydropower plants even more of an interesting proposition. Because once the initial investment has been made, virtually no further running costs are incurred. This is why the prospect of higher prices for fossil-based electricity sources

Sources: RWE, Eurostat, UCTE, CESR

November 9, 2010

Current Issues

such as coal, natural gas and oil will boost the returns on investment in hydropower. The increasing internalisation of the external climate costs will lead to increasing burdens on the fossil-fuelled power plants, while zero-carbon hydropower benefits. Europes hydropower potential economically viable, but not yet realised
TWh/year 6



Hydropower can also hold its own in comparison with the new renewables as a source of electricity. For while many of todays aspiring new renewables such as wind and solar power have to be promoted via incentive programmes, the business models for hydropower have been tested for decades and in many quarters such investment is profitable even without government subsidies. The fact that in the South-eastern European countries an initial fillip occasionally is still given to develop the market does nothing to change the generally positive picture. Hydropower also harbours risks. These include not only technical default risks and landslides but also variable precipitation or even pronounced drought phases. The management can reduce such risks by tweaking the power plant portfolio, i.e. by locating the different power plants in regionally disparate areas. This diversification helps to cushion the impact of the possible materialisation of individual risks. Investment in hydropower, in small and medium-sized plants in particular, will probably never be able to generate the extremely high returns known from the days of the dotcom bubble or other shortterm excesses. But for investors who are more interested in stable, albeit relatively somewhat lower, returns, investments in hydropower plants may certainly provide an optimum mix of returns and stability. Perhaps it is due to the minor scale of small hydro that investors have, over the past few years, failed to discover the many opportunities yet to be seized in the promising but often still rather remote regions of Europe. However, in our estimation this very situation gives rise also in view of the foreseeable energy market trends to a favourable environment for sustainable investment with extremely attractive risk-reward profiles. Josef Auer (+49 69 910-31878,

Western Europe South-eastern Europe CEECs

Sources: RWE, Eurostat, UCTE, CESR

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