10 December 2019
A major new energy innovation project to demonstrate how smart hydropower technologies can deliver a low-carbon, reliable and resilient power system was launched today.
The €18 million initiative was announced by the European Commission and a consortium of 19 partners at the United Nations climate change conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. It will show how innovative and flexible hydropower systems can help countries across the world meet their renewable energy targets.
The XFLEX HYDRO (Hydropower Extending Power System Flexibility) project is a four-year initiative by leading utilities, equipment manufacturers, universities, research centres and consultancies. It will demonstrate how modern hydropower plants can provide the vital power grid services required by variable renewables such as wind and solar power.
The launch comes after a major UN Emissions Gap Report looking at ways to reduce global carbon emissions said that greater power system flexibility was “key” to integrating larger shares of variable renewable energy into the power supply.
The XFLEX HYDRO technologies to be tested are enhanced variable- and fixed-speed turbine systems, smart controls and a battery-turbine hybrid, each of which will be demonstrated at hydropower plant sites across Europe.
The project will conclude in 2023 by delivering a roadmap to increase adoption of the technologies across the hydropower fleet, with policy and market recommendations for governments, regulators and industry.
The initiative has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It aims to help the EU achieve a target of achieving 32% of energy from renewable sources by 2030.
Mr Patrick Child, Deputy Director-General for the European Commission’s Directorate-General Research and Innovation, commented: “Combining the excellence and expertise of 19 partners from across Europe, the XFLEX HYDRO project will test innovative solutions based on renewable energy sources that will provide greater flexibility and sustainability to the energy system. The project aims to increase hydropower’s potential in terms of plant efficiency, thereby boosting electrical power systems and enabling plant and system operators to operate more successfully in electricity markets. This can make an impactful contribution to European renewable energy objectives and policies.”
Professor François Avellan of EPFL, the research institute and university leading the project, stated: “Across Europe countries are embracing large-scale electricity generation from renewables such as solar and wind power and shifting away from conventional fossil fuels for electricity generation. The growth in variable renewables is changing how power grids operate, with potential impacts on the stability and security on the whole power grid. This places unprecedented challenges on the hydropower sector to provide flexible and reliable services to the grid.
“The technologies demonstrated by the XFLEX HYDRO project will help hydropower to consolidate its critical role to support the integration of variable renewables into the power grid. This will ensure hydropower operators can maximise their performance and access future energy markets,” he added.
International Hydropower Association:
Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), which is responsible for XFLEX HYDRO project communications, said: “We need to decarbonise the power sector, and fast, if we are to limit the devastating impacts of climate change. Last month’s UN Emissions Gap Report is a stark reminder that we need hydropower to boost the contribution of variable renewables like wind and solar. The XFLEX HYDRO initiative represents a clear commitment by the European Commission, leading organisations from the hydropower sector and academia to invest in new and innovative hydropower technologies.”
Find out more at www.xflexhydro.net
Launch event speakers (left to right): Richard Taylor (Executive Adviser, IHA), Patrick Child (Deputy Director-General, EU Commission), Sara Goulartt (EDP), Antoine Badinier (EDF), with Minoru Takada (UN DESA) who hosted the launch at the UN DESA SDG pavilion at COP25.
EPFL - Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is one of Europe’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan science and technology institutions. EPFL is the project leader responsible for scientific supervision and developing a new smart power plant supervisor system technology through the XFLEX HYDRO project.
Alpiq - Alpiq is a leading Swiss energy services provider and electricity producer in Europe. It produces each year in Switzerland 4,200 GWh of electricity from hydropower. In the project, Alpiq leads the demonstrator at Z’Mutt, in Switzerland, which involves the renewal of Unit 5 of the pump station of Z'Mutt to test new operation modes in variable speed using a full-size frequency converter.
Andritz AT - ANDRITZ HYDRO GmbH is a global supplier of electromechanical systems and services for hydropower plants. The company is a leader in the world market for hydraulic power generation. The HYDRO division is the largest business area of ANDRITZ AG headquartered in Graz, Austria. ANDRITZ AT contributes to the demonstration in the Vogelgrün power plant focusing on optimised control of the hydraulic system in combination with a battery.
Andritz CH – ANDRITZ HYDRO AG is the Swiss subsidiary of ANDRITZ HYDRO GmbH in Switzerland. It contributes to the demonstration at the Vogelgrün power plant, focusing on generating a digital twin of the plant, developing a generic method for data based, real-time assessment of wear and tear and to optimise a specific predictive maintenance module for hydraulic system equipment manufacturers in combination with a battery.
ARMINES – ARMINES is a private non-profit research and technological organisation performing research contractual activities and academic research training. The project activities of ARMINES are primarily focused on implementing advanced control strategies and forecasting tools, and in the coordinated control of battery energy storage systems and hydropower plants.
CEA - CEA (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) is a French public body and the country’s largest technology research and development provider, whose role is to transfer this know-how to the industry. CEA is responsible for the battery storage system that is hybridised with the hydropower turbine in the Vogelgrün power plant.
EDF - EDF Group is the world’s leading electricity company, particularly well established in Europe. The EDF Hydro Division largely contributes to the 98% CO² free electricity in France, with a yearly average generation of 43.5TWh with its 600+ dams and 400 power plants. EDF is responsible for two demonstrations in the project: at Grand Maison and Vogelgrün power plants.
EDP CNET - EDP Centre for New Energy Technologies (EDP CNET) is a subsidiary of the EDP Group with the mission to create value through collaborative R&D in the energy sector. EDP CNET is responsible for two demonstrations within XFLEX (Alqueva and Alto Lindoso power plant in Portugal), and leads the definition of business use cases for the provision of flexibility services in the power system.
EDP P - EDP Gestão da Produção da Energia, S.A has some 1,000 workers, with an installed capacity of 10 GW, 6.7 GW of which is hydropower (approximately 2.5 GW of which with pumping capacity). As a key utility partner and major hydro operator, EDP P provides the perspective of a large-scale storage investor/owner and is responsible for the Frades 2 demonstrator in Portugal.
GE Renewable Energy - GE Renewable Energy is a $15 billion business which combines one of the broadest portfolios in the renewable energy industry to provide end-to-end solutions for our customers demanding reliable and affordable green power. Combining onshore and offshore wind, blades, hydro, storage, utility-scale solar, and grid solutions as well as hybrid renewables and digital services offerings, the company has installed more than 400+ gigawatts of clean renewable energy. The hydro activity leads the development of solutions to extend flexibility services on three demonstrators: Grand Maison, Alqueva and Alto Lindoso power plants.
HES SO - HES SO is the largest university of applied sciences in Switzerland and the second largest higher education institution of the country, with more than 21,000 students and 25 schools located in 7 cantons. The hydroelectric research group of HES SO is in charge of the modelling, numerical analysis and prototype measurements in several demonstrators.
IHA - The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a non-profit membership organisation committed to advancing sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. IHA is responsible for XFLEX HYDRO project communications.
INESC TEC - INESC TEC is a private non-profit institution having as associates the University of Porto, INESC and the Polytechnic Institute of Porto. INESCTEC leads the development and population of the hydro flexibility matrix, as well as the development of system integration studies and models for the technologies and solutions to attain the enhanced flexibility range.
PVE - Power Vision Engineering is a spin-off company of the Ecole polytechnique féderale de Lausanne, EPFL, founded in 2007, providing software solutions and expertise in the field of hydropower plant transient and dynamic behaviour. PVE contributes to the modelling and simulation of hydraulic and hydroelectric systems and is a supplier of the HydroClone innovative Real-Time Simulation Monitoring (RTSM) system.
SuperGrid Institute - SuperGrid Institute is an independent research and innovation centre that works to facilitate the wide-scale integration of renewable resources into the electrical grid. The Institute is responsible for illustrating the impact of the flexible technologies and is developing a tool (Flexbot) to demonstrate their economic benefits. Its real-time hydraulic test platform will also be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of new flexible solutions.
UPC - Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya is a public institution dedicated to higher education and research, specialised in the fields of architecture, engineering and technology. UPC is responsible for the field tests and the installation of the monitoring system in the demonstrators.
USTUTT – The University of Stuttgart is composed of 10 faculties covering technical fields, natural sciences as well as social sciences with a total of 22,600 students and 3,150 researchers. USTUTT is responsible for the unsteady numerical flow field simulations to determine unsteady dynamic loads on pump-turbine components.
Voith Hydro - The Voith Group is a global technology company. With its broad portfolio of systems, products, services and digital applications, the Voith Group sets standards in the markets of energy, oil and gas, paper, raw materials and transport and automotive. The Group Division Hydro experts focus on the development and implementation of additional solutions to make the Frades 2 demonstrator even more efficient and to increase its performance range as well as to optimise its maintenance in order to strengthen its supportive role for the flexibility of the power system.
ZABALA - ZABALA is a Spanish SME with wide experience in supporting organisations in the management of their research, technology development and innovation activities. ZABALA participates in the definition of the business development plan for all knowledge created in the project and establishing an IPR strategy for the protection of intellectual property.
International Hydropower Association
As part of a series of interviews profiling leading Fellows of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), we meet Herbie Johnson, General Manager at Southern Company and former President of the National Hydropower Association (NHA).
Herbie Johnson is General Manager at Southern Company, where he oversees 32 hydroelectric projects with a capacity of more than 2,600 MW. In September 2019 he was elected to serve on IHA’s Board, after serving two years as President of the National Hydropower Association (NHA) in the U.S. from 2017 to 2019. He continues through, his various roles, to help shape the agenda for the industry.
Herbie says one of the highlights of his career was when, in his capacity as NHA President, he had a chance to testify before the U.S. Congress about the efficiency of the licensing process. It gave him the opportunity to share ideas on how to keep the process efficient for the next hundred years.
“We work on legislation to keep the process of licencing and relicencing our hydroelectric plants, not only for Alabama Power Company [a subsidiary of Southern Company], but across the U.S., as efficient as possible, so it doesn’t impact ratepayers and our stakeholders in a negative manner,” says Herbie. The opportunity to work in Washington, D.C. and manage that process, as well as manage that organisation as the President, has been a dream come true for me.”
Having worked at Southern Company for more than 25 years, Herbie says it’s the “hundred-year plan” that he really enjoys about his job. “When I interact with our communities and our stakeholders, when I talk to our current employees or the young employee we’re going to hire, I want them to know our hydro plants are ‘forever assets’ and that we’ve got a plan for the next 100 years,” he says.
“Several of our dams are already over 100 years old. We want people to know that we’re already thinking about how we’re going to preserve these assets with sound engineering and innovation.”
Staff sergeant to hydrologist
Despite his success, Herbie admits he did not always envision a career in the hydropower industry. After graduating from high school, Herbie went into the military and served in the U.S. Air Force and the Alabama Air National Guard for six years. After achieving the rank of staff sergeant, Herbie sought a university education and ultimately decided on a degree in civil engineering at Auburn University.
“My father and grandfather built houses, so I always had an interest in construction,” Herbie says. “That ultimately led me to civil engineering.”
On the completion of his degree, Herbie started as a hydrologist in Alabama Power Company. “I went into the plants and learned how they operate and what it takes from a team of people to keep the plant running,” he says. “This included everything from dam safety to keeping the lights on, how to keep the water regulated, and how to make sure we meet state laws and regulations.”
Soon enough, Herbie had the chance to start managing a dam as a superintendent at Thurlow Dam in Tallassee. “From there, it just progressed. I managed other plants within our system and did some large construction projects, proving the ability to transfer my skills of civil and project management to large-scale projects,” he says. “That gave me the opportunity to come back into our hydro organisation as the General Manager and support the great team of people that keeps our hydro fleet running.”
Passing down “tribal” stories
He credits his mentors, Mike Akridge and Gene Allison, both ex-hydro general managers at Southern Company, as great influences throughout his career. Both helped him with knowledge transfer, lessons learned, and passed down “tribal” stories that were critical parts of the hydro industry and Southern Company. “The knowledge I gained from them are stepping stones for the leaders that will follow me,” Herbie says.
Knowledge-sharing is vital for Herbie and he feels honoured at the opportunity to serve on the IHA Board.
“The importance of IHA will continue to rise as the energy markets begin to value the robustness and flexibility of hydro resources,” Herbie says, adding that being a part of the Association offers many benefits.
“IHA members have access to tools, forums and subject matter experts that can open avenues for success as we integrate current and future hydro resources into the energy industry,” he says.
“The globalisation of the industry presents a unique set of challenges we didn’t face 20 years ago, and we need to work together to continue to have quality products that can be delivered in a timely manner to keep us competitive as a long-term asset in our energy markets of today and the future.”
Find out how to become a Fellow of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) here.
14 January 2020
Sarawak Energy has benefitted from a sustainability training programme which is helping the company achieve its vision to deliver reliable, renewable energy for the people of Sarawak, Malaysia.
Pictured: IHA's Sustainability team with employees of Sarawak Energy
The state-owned energy development company and power utility is responsible for electricity generation, transmission and electricity generation, providing electricity to about three million Sarawakans in both urban and rural areas.
In the last ten years, Sarawak’s generation mix has reoriented towards renewable hydropower and away from thermal fossil fuels such as gas, coal and diesel. Its large hydropower plants include the 2,400 MW Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) and the 944 MW Murum HEP. Under development is the 1285 MW Baleh project as well as smaller hydropower projects such as the 10MW Kota 2 project.
Pictured: Mohammad Irwan Aman
“Hydropower generation has an important role that provides a foundation for Sarawak’s development by providing reliable, renewable and affordable energy, while meeting environmental and economic needs,” says Mohammad Irwan Aman, the company’s Senior Manager (Sustainability).
The company is committed to implementing and operating its hydropower projects in accordance with international good practice, he says, in order to “minimise any negative impacts and maximise positive impacts”.
To build understanding among its staff on how to incorporate sustainability principles into current and future project developments, Sarawak Energy recently enlisted IHA to provide advanced training on using the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools to assess the social, environmental, technical and governance performance of its portfolio of hydropower projects.
The series of training workshops held in Kuching, Sarawak, explored how the suite of tools – including the Hydropower Sustainable Assessment Protocol (HSAP), Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool (HESG) and Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice (HGIIP) - can be used to enhance company practices.
Irwan says the company engaged IHA because of its ability to deliver a tailored training package. This training was divided into two categories for certified users and official accredited assessors.
“The Certified User Training was attended by our new batch of internal assessors, along with other staff who are directly or indirectly involved in hydropower development and operation, to introduce them to sustainable hydropower,” he says.
‘Training was an eye opener’
Pictured: Iswandy Sureia
One of the trainees was Iswandy Sureia, a senior civil engineer for the Kota 2 Mini Hydro Project, who participated in the three-day Certified User Training. Despite nearly a decade’s experience with hydropower projects, he says the training was of great benefit to him.
“My primary role is to coordinate and control all phases of project execution and administration, cost, schedule and qualities of deliveries and changes of scope,” he says. “Based on my past experience, huge challenges and hurdles have been encountered from local stakeholders as there were no proper tools or guidelines to refer to. I believe with the tools in place in the business system and processes, all the problems can be minimised or eliminated.”
Iswandy adds the training was an “eye opener” for those directly involved in hydropower development as the Hydropower Sustainability Tools cover all aspects of a project’s life cycle.
“The tools can guide the team and the business entity in developing the hydropower project in a sustainable manner,” he says. “The team can also assess their performance against international good practice, areas for improvement and subsequently the recommended action to be taken.”
The course included 20 participants and eight observers from Sarawak Energy’s senior management.
‘Engaging and easy to understand’
Pictured: Dayang Zanariah
Dayang Zanariah, a civil engineer, was one of 11 participants on the Official Accredited Assessor Training, a more comprehensive course. She learned about the various ways in which the Hydropower Sustainability Tools can be applied, ranging from decision-making to capacity building.
“The training was really engaging and further reinforced my understanding, especially in the interpretation of the statements for each of the [sustainability] topics,” she says. “The training structure was developed in a way that was easy to understand.”
Since the training course was completed in July 2019, Irwan says his team has been able to identify new ways to improve and incorporate the recently gained knowledge and lessons learned into their day-to-day responsibilities.
“In-depth understanding on sustainable hydropower and its application enables Sarawak Energy to strengthen its efforts in embedding sustainable practice into the business system by introducing and implementing new processes,” he says.
Learn more about IHA’s Sustainability training programmes here.
19 December 2019
Five global energy associations jointly urged governments to increase the take-up of renewable technologies at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain last week.
The representatives made the call at an official side-event held by the REN Alliance, a partnership of the International Hydropower Association, International Solar Energy Society, International Geothermal Association, World Bioenergy Association and World Wind Energy Association.
Mathis Rogner, Senior Analyst at the International Hydropower Association (IHA), represented the hydropower sector and was joined by José González, Senior Researcher at the International Solar Energy Society, Marit Brommer, Executive Director at International Geothermal Association and Remigijus Lapinskas, President of the World Bioenergy Association.
The panelists urged policy-makers to:
- increase renewable energy penetration in the electricity grid
- develop markets that reward power system flexibility
- stop financing and subsidising fossil fuels
- increase investments in renewable energy technologies.
Mr Rogner said that renewable technologies were prepared to meet global energy demand and decarbonisation goals, but the policy and regulatory frameworks need to catch up. “I would like to call on governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organisations and companies to come together and work upon this aspect, so renewable energy can play a greater part,” he said. It is clear that our power systems need a mix of services to ensure resilient systems, he added.
He said the hydropower sector was going to continue to grow, but its role is evolving to offering further and additional grid flexibility services to support and enable the greater integration of variable renewables, while also offering freshwater management services.
Dr Brommer agreed collaboration is key to ensure the necessary deployment of renewable energy technologies on the ground. “The geothermal sector is keen to continue to push the need for energy system transformation and is grateful for the outreach opportunities through strong and strategic partnerships provided by the REN Alliance at high-level events such as the COPs where our joint messages are amplified,” she said.
David Renne, President of the International Solar Energy Society, said that while it is unfortunate that more was not accomplished at the national and global level at COP25, the REN Alliance side-event confirms that much positive action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is taking place at local and regional levels.
“There is no question that the need for climate change mitigation is becoming more and more urgent, and that a major solution to this urgency is to increase the rate of deployment of clean renewable energy technologies that can meet all of our end use energy needs, including power, heat, and transport,” he said.
Laura Williamson, Outreach & Communications Manager at REN21, a think-tank focused on renewable energy policy, moderated the discussion.
Find out more about IHA’s work on clean energy systems.
13 December 2019
A new IHA guide will help hydropower developers and operators manage potential impacts arising from erosion and sedimentation in a river basin, allowing decision-makers to avoid business risks and act responsibly towards the environment and local communities.
The Hydropower Erosion and Sedimentation How-to Guide provides an overview of current knowledge and effective practices from across the sector in managing risks associated with erosion and sedimentation.
It covers potential impacts upstream and downstream of a hydropower project, sediment transport in rivers, erosion from the project site, civil and electromechanical structures, and climate change.
The guide presents methodologies and technologies related to scoping and siting, design and mitigation, and assessment and monitoring. The guide in addition highlights how such measures can increase a project’s resilience to hydrological variability and support climate change adaptation.
IHA Sustainability Specialist, Alain Kilajian, said: “Effective erosion and sediment management is essential to sustainably develop and operate a hydropower project. This guide looks at good practices in the field and provides hydropower professionals with practical approaches to managing even the most challenging issues.”
Lead author and independent environmental and social consultant, Doug Smith, said: “Effective management of erosion and sedimentation is fundamental to hydropower’s role in a low carbon future. With its catalogue of methodologies and technologies, I hope the guide provides clarity on how to do this, where to begin, and where to find further advice and expertise.”
Download the Hydropower Erosion and Sedimentation How-to Guide
The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a non-profit membership organisation committed to sustainable hydropower. Our mission is to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. We achieve this through sector monitoring, advancing strategies that strengthen performance, and building an open, innovative and trusted platform for knowledge.