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Europe invests €18M in upgrading hydroelectric power plants to meet renewable energy production targets

09th January 2020

The new technology solutions that will be developed to improve the performance of hydroelectric power plants can significantly contribute to a low carbon energy system, thus helping to meet the proposed targets for renewable energy production - which, in Europe's case, are set to 32% by 2030.

In this sense, and with a €18M support by the European Commission, 19 institutions from seven countries - Portugal, Switzerland, France, Austria, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom - joined forces to develop innovative and flexible technologies that will be installed in hydroelectric power plants.

The Portuguese institutions that participate in this European project, called XFLEX HYDRO, are the Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC), EDP Produção and EDP CNET.

“The main goal of the project is the development of new technology solutions to integrate different types of hydroelectric power plants, thus aiming to improve their performance and efficiency and contribute to the decarbonisation of the energy sector - by favouring a more significant integration of other renewable energy sources, characterised by high temporal variability and very low controllability ”, said Carlos Moreira, project coordinator at INESC TEC and professor at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP).

The key technology solutions to be developed include modern turbine systems (as well as pumps, in pumped-storage plants) with constant and variable speed, intelligent controllers and a hybrid system consisting in the integration of a power storage battery into conventional run-of-the-river hydroelectric power plants. The installation and demonstration of said systems will take place at hydroelectric plants in Portugal, Switzerland and France.  In Portugal, the Frades, Alqueva, Alto Lindoso and Caniçada plants will test modern turbine and pump systems. 

The XFLEX HYDRO project was formally presented by the European Commission at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25), which took place in Madrid, in early December. By 2023, the end date of the project, the Commission is expected to receive a road map to improve the adoption of technology solutions for the entire hydroelectric fleet, including policy and market recommendations for governments, regulating bodies and industry.

The Swiss institution École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is the leading entity of the project. In addition to EPFL and the aforementioned Portuguese institutions, the XFLEX HYDRO includes other four Swiss entities - ALPIQ AG., ANDRITZ HYDRO AG, SUUTE OCCIDENTALE and POWER VISION ENGINEERING -, five French institutions - ASSOCIATION POUR LA RECHERCHE ET LE DEVELOP DES METHODES ET PROCESSUS INDUSTRIELS, COMMISSARIAT AL ENERGIE ATOMIC ET AUX ENERGIES ALTERNATIVES, ELECTRICITE FRANCE, GE HYDRO FRANCE and SUPERGRID INSTITUTE -, one Austrian group - ANDRITZ HYDRO GMBH -, two German bodies - UNIVERSITAET VO HOLDING CO. KG - two Spanish institutions - UNIVERSITAT POLITECNICA DE CATALUNYA and ZABALA INNOVATION CONSULTING - and an association from the United Kingdom - INTERNATIONAL HYDROPOWER ASSOCIATION.

The XFLEX HYDRO project received €18M from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program, under agreement number 857832.

More information about the project can be found at 

For further inquiries:

Eunice Oliveira

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