Environmental approach within hydropower

Hydropower is renewable and produces very little emissions of greenhouse gases from a life cycle perspective. When hydropower was built it affected the local ecosystems in and around the rivers. At Fortum we actively implement projects aimed at mitigating this effect, whilst recognizing the importance of hydropower when combating climate change. Implementing the right action in the right place is crucial to achieve the desired outcome.

Hydropower in Sweden and Finland

Environmental report for hydropower 2022
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Hydropower is a clean and renewable energy source

Producing energy from hydroelectric power plants is a renewable and efficient way of producing energy. It produces very little emissions of greenhouse gases from a life cycle perspective and as such it is one of the most important energy forms that we have in the battle against climate change. Since there are no fuels in hydropower there is no waste and no emissions of harmful substances either.

In addition, hydropower gives the opportunity to store energy in the water reservoirs, which is crucial to meet the demands of the renewable power sources that cannot be regulated, such as wind and solar. When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine we can use hydropower, and when we get energy from wind we can store hydropower. This means that the more hydropower we have the more wind power we can build.

Construction of hydropower changed the nature of the watercourse

The environmental impacts caused by hydropower production are always local and are well known. Hydropower production and regulation change the range and rhythm of the water level and the flow rate in water systems compared to their natural state. Some rivers have been affected for centuries, long before hydroelectric dams.

Hydropower plant dams are barriers for the migration of fish and other fauna, but on the other hand storage of water to the reservoirs diversifies the recreational use of the water system. Regulation of the water system also has local positive effects. Regulation can effectively prevent flooding of the river. When designing new hydropower plants and renovating old ones, mitigating environmental impacts is always taken into account.

Important to do the right measure for the desired effect

We are actively involved in research and development projects aimed at reducing local environmental impacts. The expertise of municipalities, environmental authorities and other local stakeholders in these projects is an essential part of cooperation. As a hydropower company, we have a duty to reduce the environmental impacts of our hydropower production.

Fish management requires water system specific solutions, and we strive to reduce the impact on fish stocks by fish stocking, restoring fish habitats, implementing transports of fish to their spawning areas and building fishways. In addition to the power plant specific obligations, we participate in voluntary environmental projects to reduce the environmental impact of hydropower production together with municipalities, local authorities and research institutes. We also fund a number of projects to explore the possibilities for enhancing biodiversity.

The main goal of our environmental work is to determine the specific goal in every case and find the best measure to achieve this goal.

Improving recreational use of water systems with hydropower

We participate in many ways in environmental management and recreational use of rivers in cooperation with local residents, riverside municipalities, research institutes and environmental authorities. In cooperation we have for many years rehabilitated waterways and improved the riverside landscaping. We are also constantly pursuing the development of water management so that it can better combine other water usage needs with the needs of hydropower production. We have enhanced the recreational use of watercourses by building boat sluices and recreational areas.

Upgrade of hydropower plants bring new renewable energy to the energy market

Hydropower has a special position in the Nordic energy system due to its regulation characteristics. Therefore, existing hydropower plants should be used to produce CO2-free electricity as efficiently as possible.

The installed power of an old hydropower plant can be increased by improving the overall efficiency of the plant. The efficiency of the engine improves when the impeller design is modified, the generator losses are reduced and the turbine control systems are renewed.

With the upgrade and increase of the installed power, the hydropower plant produces more CO2-free electricity. Upgrades do not usually increase the existing environmental impacts of the hydropower plant. The renewal of equipment improves safety at work and reliability of the plant, the oil amount at the plant is reduced as well as the risk of oil and grease spills, and also the risk of a fire at the plant. We invest 50 to 80 million euros annually for the renovation and power upgrading projects of our hydroelectric power plants in Finland and Sweden.

During the last ten years, we have upgraded our hydropower production capacity by over 116 megawatts through power upgrades. At the same time, the amount of CO2-free electricity increased by an average of 250 gigawatt hours. If the same amount of electricity had been produced by coal ratios, the average carbon dioxide emissions from production would be 220,000 tons.

Low emissions

Environmental projects

At Fortum we actively implement environmental projects within hydropower.

Read more about environmental projects