Widespread concerns and criticism over the impact of hydropower on nature and the quality of life prompted the rethinking of the stance toward the projects, so the Energy Community Secretariat asked individuals, firms and organizations for their opinions.
Public authorities, developers, companies, associations, consumer and environmental organizations and citizens have the opportunity to help shape the policy guidelines concerning small hydropower plants in the region, the Energy Community Secretariat said. Suggestions can be submitted by June 15. The draft focuses on environmental assessments.
The public consultation was launched due to widespread concerns and criticism over the impact on nature and the quality of life. The effects of hydropower projects have a cumulative nature and can be felt over large parts of or even the entirety of river basins, according to the proposed version of the document.
State aid or selective advantage can be in the form of feed-in rates, transfer or lease of property below market price the use of resources without proper remuneration
Hydropower units must comply with the European Union’s acquis communautaire in the design, construction and operational phases, the secretariat stressed. The draft policy guidelines outline the procedure for public participation, screening and scoping and the production of the environmental reports, environmental impact assessments (EIA) and strategic environmental assessments (SEA).
The Energy Community Secretariat pointed to the prohibition of state aid or selective advantage. It can be in the form of feed-in tariffs (FiT) or premiums (FiP), transfer or lease of property and land below market price or the authorities could allow the use of land and resources without proper remuneration.
“Most countries today are switching from administratively set feed-in tariffs to market-based auctions, trying to reach renewables targets in a more cost-effective way… Consumers benefit through lower costs, while policy makers achieve greater control over the renewable energy sector’s development,” the document adds.
The environment frequently falls victim to poor implementation of the rules on environmental assessment
Small hydropower projects can cause substantial damage if they are not thoroughly planned and scrutinized and their electricity output “may be minimal in comparison,” the secretariat said. The environment “frequently falls victim to poor implementation of the rules on environmental assessment” in countries in the region, it added and warned impacts on a cumulative and international basis are often not assessed at all.
Impairments of property rights of citizens and restrictions of right of access to water and land are listed among the many risks involved with the said activity. Also, small projects can leave the riverbed empty and affect water quality. Blockages change temperature and chemical composition with potentially devastating consequences for sensitive species and biodiversity in general.