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Perspectives on hydropower's role to balance non-regulated renewable power production in Northern and Western Europe


The future energy system in the Northern and Western Europe will see a significant development of non-regulated renewable energy sources like onshore and offshore wind power, solar power and unregulated hydropower. This situation will increase the need for regulated (balancing) power both for peaking and as well as for backup during periods with low wind or low inflow to the hydropower system.

Hydropower in the Nordic countries already today partly balances the wind power variability in NW Europe and in the future there is a substantial potential for more balancing power – mainly in Norway and Sweden - if required. This potential lies primarily not in building new reservoirs but in the upgrading and refurbishment of the existing hydropower system. A substantial amount of new pumped storage capacity can be built in Norway utilizing only existing seasonal reservoirs, and thus make it possible to store large quantities of energy in periods with low demand and wind excess in the North Sea.

Significant investments in generation, energy storage and transmission infrastructures will be needed if this potential is to be developed. For this, countries will need to cooperate first at political level, to agree on common goals with respect to how the future energy supply in NW Europe should look like. Citizens in all countries need to be actively involved in this process, since any major energy infrastructure developments will have important local social (and environmental) impacts. And at last, but very important, the electricity markets have to be adapted in order to allow the trading of balancing services at a larger scale.

The paper addresses different perspectives and possibilities for increased hydro power generation and flexibility in the NW European system given an increased need for balancing power in the region. First, the actual need for balancing is discussed, based on trends and figures on renewable generation and the future energy supply plans in the NW European countries. Then, the current status regarding hydropower generation, transmission, market and policies in the region is presented. The paper will present several possible scenarios for hydropower development in Norway, having as main focus the evolution in time (2010-2030) of the four key elements: policy/society, market, transmission and generation.


Academic lecture


  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 193818




  • Maria Catrinu
  • Eivind Solvang
  • Magnus Korpås
  • Ånund Killingtveit


  • SINTEF Energy Research
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Presented at

HYDRO 2011




17.10.2011 - 20.10.2011


The International Journal on Hydropower & Dams



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