Hydro power is by far the leading renewable energy source in the EU.
Hydro power is economically attractive, provides security of supply and has low levels of CO2 emissions. Flexible hydro power is key in an energy system with more and more wind and solar power. Vattenfall has century-long roots in hydro power and continues to hold a leading position in Sweden's hydro power development. We are committed to hydro power and we are open to growth options in Europe.
Our hydro power operations
We own and operate some 100 hydro power plants, most of which are located in Sweden with some in Finland, Germany and the Netherlands. Hydro power accounts for a large proportion of Vattenfall's total electricity generation and is the most significant renewable energy source both in terms of Vattenfall's production and the European energy system.
Interconnectors are vital for the energy transition
Interconnecting Nordic hydro power with neighbouring systems, such as wind and solar, will offer flexible cross-border capacity, provide security of supply, improve market stability and enable the renewable agenda. Importantly, it is an excellent solution for coping with higher volumes of intermittent renewable generation in both Germany and the UK. In times of low renewable production on the continent and the UK, Nordic hydro production can be exported and thereby reduce dependence on flexible fossil fuels in these markets. In times of excess generation by continental and UK renewables, the flow can be reversed using their production in the Nordic market to remedy overcapacity situations.
Hydro – a balancing power
Hydro power plants can be used both to generate baseload power (the amount of electricity that is always needed) and as balancing power (electricity output that can quickly be turned on to meet variations in demand).
A problem with electricity is that it cannot be stored to any great extent. Water, on the other hand, can be. Water reservoirs next to hydro power plants function as large "batteries". Energy can be stored during the times of the year when water inflow is high and electricity demand is low, and the energy can then be used when the demand is the greatest.
Flexible hydro power can offer its huge reservoirs with stored water as a giant “green” battery to the Nordic region as well as internationally. Nordic hydro reservoirs hold 50% of the total hydro storage volume in Europe, delivering unique flexibility through all required timescales – from seconds to months – and furthermore provides grid stability services in the Nordic region.
Our power plants
Find out more about Vattenfall’s power plants and facts about how much electricity we are producing.
Hydro power and the environment
Hydro power is the leading renewable energy source in the EU, and produces virtually no emissions that have an impact on the climate or the environment throughout its production phase. However, there are emissions related to the building and maintaining of power plants. In order to keep track of these, Vattenfall has carried out Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for more than 20 years. These LCAs have been refined over the years and we can now offer our customers a more detailed analysis of our environmental impact in the form of an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).
We are undertaking a great number of initiatives to reduce the negative effects of hydro power on ecosystems and biodiversity, with the aim of maximising ecological benefit while minimising the impact on electricity production. Among the activities are research studies of downstream migration of fish at our research facility in Älvkarleby, measures to improve migration of salmon and sea trout at Stornorrfors hydro power station, and development of new ways to attract fish to the fish passages, ensuring efficient pathways.
EPD for hydro
The Environmental Product Declaration offers a detailed analysis of our environmental impact.
Future hydro operations
New hydro power plants are unlikely to be built in Sweden, but the capacity of existing units can be increased. With strengthened flexibility, investments in new technology and targeted environmental measures, Vattenfall’s hydro power plants maintain their role as a cornerstone of a Nordic and European energy system that features increasing amounts of renewable energy. As one of Europe's largest operators, Vattenfall has a clear competitive advantage.
In supplying society with energy, a balance must be struck between three key dimensions: competitiveness, security of supply, and the environment and climate. No single energy source is optimal from all dimensions.
Climate and environment
Hydro power is a renewable energy source that causes almost no emissions that impact the climate or the environment. However, power plants are a significant encroachment on the landscape and impact river ecosystems. A power plant may also affect animal and plant life in the vicinity.
Security of supply
Hydro power plants provide large-scale and stable electricity generation. But sustained high generation levels are dependent on precipitation. Hydro power also functions as a balancing power, since capacity can be rapidly changed to compensate for differences in generation and consumption on the network.
Hydro power has no fuel costs and competitive generation costs. Constructing a new power plant requires a substantial investment, but its economic life is long.