New environmental requirements for hydropower plants are published – EKOenergy seeks pioneers for piloting

A dam pool of a hydropower plant. Dam interrupts the river continuum. River turns to almost like a lake. As a result, stream-inhabiting species suffer. Thus river habitats must be preserved or restored. Photo: Matti Pellinen

New environmental requirements for hydropower plants are published – EKOenergy seeks pioneers for piloting

EKOenergy, the international ecolabel for renewable energy has revised its environmental requirements for hydropower plants. Now EKOenergy is seeking for pioneers of the sector to pilot how the new requirements work in practice.

The new environmental requirements for hydropower plants concern fish migration, water flow and river habitats. For electricity to be sold with the ecolabel, at least a functioning fish passage and continuous flow are required. In addition, the habitats must be suitable for river organisms.

A bypass channel i.e natural fishway. An all-year-round water flow guarantees that stream-inhabiting species may pass the hydropower plant settle to the reach. Photo: Markus Penttinen

During the two-year process of the criteria update, analyses and hearings with specialists were carried out. E.g. to understand whether the fish passages should be a natural bypass or would a technical fish passage of a catching facility be sufficient. A typical shortcoming is a case where the operation of the plant does not allow sufficient and continuous flow to pass the power plant.

”An environmental label is based on voluntary. We wish that along with norms and policy, the ecolabel will help us take steps towards the realization of the European Water Framework Directive and a good state of water bodies”, says Virpi Sahi, the Environmental Director of EKOenergy.

”Electricity consumers play a key role in calling for more nature-friendly hydropower”, she continues.

The update of environmental requirements included a background study in 2017 and two rounds of public consultation in 2018. Documents were drafted based on the feedback we received. The new environmental criteria will be applied from now onwards. During the piloting period, further modifications are still possible. The criteria will be accepted by the EKOenergy Board by the end of 2020. The work is carried out as a part of FRESHABIT LIFE IP project, funded by the EU.

EKOenergy is an international and independent ecolabel for renewable energy. It takes into account not only the climate but also nature. The EKOenergy Secretariat is hosted by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, which also is one of the member organizations of EKOenergy Network.

The origin of EKOenergy-labelled electricity is proven with tracking certificates such as Guarantees of Origin and it fulfils extra sustainability requirements, based on the type of production. Minimum 0.10€ of the electricity price goes to the EKOenergy Climate Fund, which supports renewable energy projects in developing countries. In the case of hydropower, the same amount of contribution goes to the Environmental Fund which supports river restoration and projects that mitigate the adverse impacts of hydropower.

For more information:

Virpi Sahi, Environmental Director of EKOenergy,
tel. +358 50 308 245

See the new environmental requirements for hydropower:

Photos: the first photo was taken by Matti Pellinen, the second – Markus Penttinen
Press release, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and EKOenergy
Posted on 14 February 2019