Water power is climate-friendly reserve power

After bioenergy, water power is the second largest source of renewable energy in Finland. Over the last few years, share of water power from all energy production in Finland has been approximately 4% and, from the production of electricity, 10-15%. With regard to climate, water power is an extremely friendly form of producing energy. Negative impacts of water power are related to changes in the natural status of the water environment, for example breakage in the natural routes of fish.

Water power is a notable source of renewable energy in Finland

After bioenergy, water power is the second largest source of renewable energy in Finland. Over the last few years, share of water power from all energy production in Finland has been approximately 4% and, from the production of electricity, 10-15%.

With respect to the production of renewable energy, water power has covered approximately 15%. Depending on the variation in water conditions, amount of water power changes markedly from year to year.
In 2006, Finland had 207 hydroelectric power stations of which 67 were mini hydroelectric power stations (less than 1MW), 83 were small hydroelectric power stations (1-10MW) and 57 major hydroelectric power stations (more than 10MW). The combined production power of the plants is approximately 3,000MW and the annual amount of produced energy, 10-17 TWh.
 
In terms of its costs, water power is inexpensive, the plants are durable and the capitals of older plants have already been amortised.

More water power by renewing equipment

Finland's most notable water power targets have been built already decades ago. The majority being located in protected bodies of water, Finland still has more than 2,000MW of power potential remaining in water power (nearly 10TWh in energy potential). Additional potential of built and unprotected bodies of water is 600MW (annual production more than 2TWh). (This number does not include the additional potential of the Vuotos reservoir causing controversy.) Due to environmental protection reasons, gaining additional power would most likely be concentrated on intensifying the use of already harnessed areas.

Viability of adding the capacity of built water power varies to a great extent by size classes and project types. Increasing the output of the power station, cleaning and raising of the headwater in connection to major overhaul of the main machinery are the most profitable projects. In addition, with respect to new water power, environmental protection reasons limit the possibilities of adding more power stations and may even limit the use of the current capacity.

Water power - globally environmentally friendly, locally less so

Although water power seems extremely sensible from the global climate protection perspective, it is counterbalanced by many local negative environmental effects.

Power plants prevent the natural travel of migratory fishes. Land areas are covered by reservoirs built for water power, biota is destroyed or forced to leave as water conquers the land, heavy metals and other harmfus substances move from water to fish and people. With respect to climate change, the most harmful effects are greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide and methane in particular, which are released from the bottom of the reservoirs. On the other hand, producing electricity with water power causes extremely little greenhouse gas emissions.

Potential of water power as a reducer of carbon dioxide emissions

Finland can increase the production of water power to some extent without interfering with already implemented environmental conservation. By 2010, 175MW of the water power potential free for building could be implemented, in addition to 235MW by 2015 and another plus 20MW by 2020. Due to economical and environmental reasons, more than 100MW of the potential will most likely not be realised.

Because of profitability reasons, implementing an increase in the output of the current plants can only be made in connection to major overhauls. The implementation schedule can be expedited with the help of investment subsidies.
If the water power potential would be implemented according to the aforementioned estimate, it could avoid 380,000-820,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production compared to the same amount of electricity being produced with either natural gas or coal condensate.

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