I. [Background] The need for cost-effective renewable source of energy has been widely mentioned as the priority for the investment and regional development. Currently, the European Commission aims to reach “a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels” as well as reach “at least a 27% share of renewable energy consumption” and “at least 27% energy savings” (European Commission 2015). These aspirations were highlighted as key targets of the European Union in their long-term energy strategy. The construction of hydropower plants may come as a natural solution to reaching the above mentioned goals.
II. [Thesis Statement] In this essay, I will insist on the need for intensifying hydropower energy generation in Europe by outlining the major advantages that the construction of hydropower plants may bring. First, we will look at the economic profits from realizing such projects, and second, we will look at the cost efficiency of the constructed plants. We will also discuss why hydropower plants are criticized by its opponents.
III. [Main Argument 1] In Europe, hydropower sector is an important element of domestic economies. It contributes significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP), employment through the creation of full time jobs, improved investment climate as well as a steady source of revenues for the state budgets at all levels from local to national.
A. The added value that is created by hydropower energy in Europe is estimated to be 38 billion EUR per year, which is equivalent to the contemporaneous gross domestic product (GDP) of Slovenia. What is more impressive is that this number if projected to grow in the future, and therefore it is expected to reach the number between 75 and 90 billion EUR by the end of 2030 (Ziegler 2015).
B. It has been also found that hydropower production sector creates as much as 120,000 full time job places, which is comparable to the total employment of the European aluminium sector. Moreover, each of those full time jobs brings the added value equal to 650,000 EUR to the European economy, which is eight times larger than the average productivity of the manufacturing sector in Europe. Interestingly, it has been estimated that the 10% increase in hydropower generation technologies by the end of 2030 may also lead 27,000 and 35,000 new jobs outside of the hydropower generation sector itself in the EU and Europe, respectively (Ziegler 2015).
C. The amount of investments made by hydropower generation and manufacturing firms in Europe is massive, and over the past few years it fluctuated between 8 and 12 billion EUR per year. More importantly, the amount of investments made in hydropower sector is expected to grow even further and reach 180 billion EUR by the end of 2030 (Zieger 2015).
D. It is also noted that hydropower generation and manufacturing brings high revenues to the budgets of governments at all levels (local, regional and national). In particular, it has been estimated that budget contributions from direct taxes constitute as much as 15 billion EUR per annum, which is more than one third of the added value created by the sector itself (Zieger 2015).
IV. [Main Argument 2] Hydropower manufacturing is often cited as the most efficient power generation process among alternative major power generation technologies, because it is a cost-efficient medium of generating energy which is sustainable, affordable, flexible and secure (Eurelectric 2013)
A. First of all, hydropower generation is largely ecologically friendly, and being such it allows avoiding a significant emission of carbon dioxides (CO2). In the European Union today, it allows precluding 180 Mt of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, which accounts for about 15 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions by the power sector in the EU. For the whole Europe, such savings are even larger, given that hydropower generation avoids 280 Mt of CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to 21 per cent of total power sector carbon dioxide emissions (Zieger 2015).
B. Secondly, hydropower generation is one of the most affordable sources of electricity. The flexibility of hydropower generation process allows avoiding the undesirable price spikes in the electricity market, and therefore precludes the possibility of rapid and persistent growth in electricity prices in the future. The research has found that the increase in hydropower generation by 10% by the end of 2030 can lead to the disproportional increase in annual savings equal to 5-10 billion EUR to the final electricity consumers (Zieger 2015).
C. Hydropower generation process is also safe, for it allows avoiding the combustion (burning) of fossil fuels.
V. [Counter-argument] Construction of hydropower plants is often supported with the construction of large dams, thus leading to a number of negative externalities on people living in the vicinity as well as on ecological matters.
A. Large dam constructions may require local people to leave their permanent place of dwelling in a pursuit of a “common good”. The construction of large dams is accompanied with the construction of sophisticated infrastructure such as irrigation systems, roads, canals, power lines and industrial developments, and it is often done at the expense of residential areas. It forces people to reallocate, with many of them losing the previously sustained standards of living. According to the World Commission on Dams Report (2008), “dams have physically displaced 40-80 million people worldwide” because of social, economic and environmental reasons.
B. What is more, dams may have huge ecological impacts as they may adversely affect ecosystems by changing river topography and dynamics, which in turn may lead to water pollution, waterborne diseases and the loss of conventional floodplain agriculture and fisheries.
C. Water reservoirs which are established in parallel with dams are found to be contributors to the generation of one type of greenhouse gases called methane. The bottom layers of reservoirs are found to be lacking oxygen (for what they are called anoxic) and the anaerobic process that take place in these layers lead to the conversion of biomass into methane. As a matter of fact, under some conditions such emission of methane by hydropower plants can be 3.5 times larger than the corresponding oil-fuelled power plant of similar power generation capacity (Graham-Rowe 2005).
VI. [Restatement of Issue] In this essay we attempted to discuss pros and cons of developing the hydropower energy generation sector.
VII. [Implication] In summary, hydropower plants are highly beneficial in terms of economic contributions as well as in terms of their efficiency. It has been found that generation of hydropower energy sector contributes significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP), employment through the creation of full time jobs, improved investment climate as well as a steady source of revenues for the state budgets at all levels from local to national. It has been also found that being more sustainable, affordable, flexible and secure, hydropower plants offers the more efficient way to generate energy than its alternatives. On the other hand, construction of hydropower plants is often supported with the construction of large dams, which in turn have a number of negative externalities on people living in their close vicinity as well as on ecological matters. Nonetheless, the benefits of making investments in the construction of hydropower plants significantly exceed its shortcomings.
- Eurelectric. 2013. Hydropower for a sustainable Europe. Available at http://www.eurelectric.org/
- European Commission. 2015. 2030 Energy Strategy. Available at http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-strategy/2030-energy-strategy
- Graham-Rowe, Duncan. 2005. Hydroelectric Power’s Dirty Secret Revealed. NewScientist.com. Available at https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7046-hydroelectric-powers-dirty-secret-revealed/
- World Commission on Dams Report. 2008. Internationalrivers.org. Available at http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/the-world-commission-on-dams-framework-a-brief-introduction-2654
- Ziegler, H. 2015. The hydropower sector’s contribution to a sustainable and prosperous Europe Main Report. Available at https://www.hydropower.org/