Destroying the rivers of Europe + Texas and the failure of due diligence in planning

A fascinating piece on the way small hydro schemes are killing the rivers in the Balkans.

In Europe, 91 percent of the planned 8,000 hydropower plants are “small”, meaning they have an installed capacity of less than 10 megawatt. “Small is beautiful” is what many people think when they hear about small hydropower development. However, the facts show a different picture: migratory fish population in EU have declined by 93% since 1970; on the Balkans 49 fish species are at risk of going extinct, mostly threatened by small dam projects.

Small hydropower is the Trojan horse of genuine renewable energy. Promised as a low impact, environmentally friendly, renewable source of electricity production, the propaganda of small hydropower has convinced many people that it is good for them, good for the climate and good for nature. However, like the deception of Troy where the small garrison of soldiers crept out of the horse under the cover of darkness and opened the gates to the army that then sacked the city, small hydropower is an artifice that does nothing but wanton damage. But unlike the mythological story of Troy, small hydropower’s treachery is real. Once let loose on our rivers, creeks and streams, it wreaks real havoc on natural ecosystems and the communities that depend on them to survive.

And not just the Balkans, it is happening all over Europe. The story is illustrated by masses of pictures from drones hovering over the sites.



Riffing on the disaster in Texas, the author makes some points about planning for worst case scenarios and the way this was neglected in Texas. The point is that providers have to choose between minimising the immediate cost of power by planning for normal loads or increasing the price to maintain spare capacity to maintain supply in worst case scenarios.

The incentive for gas generation to do the right thing was taken away by Texas’s deliberate energy only market strategy. The purpose of which was to aid the profitability of intermittent wind and solar resources and increase their penetration levels. I don’t believe anyone has ever advanced the notion that fossil fuel plants might operate based on altruism. Incentives and responsibility need to be paired.  Doing a post-mortem on the Texas situation ignoring incentives and responsibility is inappropriate and incomplete.

It is pretty obvious that our state planners have no idea about planning for wind droughts and they can get away with that as long as we have almost enough conventional power to provide almost all the demand, almost all the time.


Wind providing 3% of demand, running at 8% of capacity. This will change of course, and it doesn’t matter because fossil fuels are providing 75% of the modest demand at present.

And SA importing.

3pm, in SE Australia, wind 5% at 12% capacity, RE a third of demand.  WA, wind 2%.


Peak load for the day although it is only 27GW, not a working day or a heatwave. At 7.15 the wind was delivering 7% of demand in the SE and 14% in the West. Solar will soon be gone in SA and then 3 hours later in the west. The windmills are working at 22% of capacity, not far short of the average.

South Australia is importing.

Just to get a reminder of the gap between where we are and where the RE mafia want to go, see how much of the red, brown and black bars on the NemWatch display has to be turned into green!

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29 Responses to Destroying the rivers of Europe + Texas and the failure of due diligence in planning

  1. Forester says:

    I remember walking around regional Norway, lots of small holiday homes beside creeks with raging torrents, tens of cubic metres of water a minute, of freezing cold water cascading down the mountains. Each home had a 6″ thick walled poly pipe coming out of the basement and running 100 metres up beside the creek, you could hear the muffled whizzing of the small generator in the basement. There were thousands of these all over the country. Probably unregulated.

  2. Roger says:

    ANU has identified 22 000 sites for pumped hydro in Australia of various capacities, most on the east coast.

    It hopes their development will offset the departure of coal fired generators from the sector.

    Just another moonbeam from the larger lunacy.

  3. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Enviroweenies in the US have been screeching forever about dams killing da salmon in the western states. They forced the building of fish ladders and other exotic technical contrivances. Even to the point of demolishing dams for the fish.

    So where are all the environmental activists protesting these small hydropower projects? Environmentalists would never ever be hypocrites would they?

  4. Dot says:

    The deep greens are ticket clipping blacktail mountain watermelons, they will totally oppose solar, wind, nuclear, solar updraft, hydro, unless regulated, subsidised and gamed too boot.

  5. herodotus says:

    Bruce, you may have heard this one – the BBC had an “expert” on to talk about the extreme cold in the northern hemisphere, and how the disruption of the polar vortex was indeed a result of climate change.
    She said that the arctic was warming faster than other places, and that this was causing the disruptions.
    In a further bit of prestidigitation she said “look over there, it’s hotter than usual in Iraq! That balances out the colder than usual elsewhere.” I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that was the guts of it.

  6. Dot says:

    22,000 new dams in Australia would be sufficient for baseload and peak power for generations to come, including replacing fossil fuels and fossil fuel petrochemical feedstocks, mitigating floods and ensuring water supply.

    Build them, for heaven’s sake!

  7. Rafe Champion says:

    Jobs jobs jobs!

  8. alan moran says:

    Energy only markets place the responsibility on the retailer to ensure it has adequate supplies to provide customers with whom he has contracted to supply on demand at say $200 per MWh, with electricity that he can buy at spot at anything between -$200 and $15,000. This is a great incentive to ensure he has adequate supplies. Such catallactic systems generally perform far better than those based on planning (which is what a capacity market is). Neither performs well when, as in Australia and Texas, governments make massive interventions favouring one particular form of power, especially one that is intrinsically subject to break-down and imposes additional costs (system weakening, lack of reactive power) on the system as a whole.

  9. Rafe Champion says:

    Thanks Alan, as one would assume it is the intervention that does the damage.

  10. Roger says:

    22,000 new dams in Australia would be sufficient for baseload and peak power for generations to come

    Dot, it took 16 years to gain approval for the last dam built in QLD. And that was not pumped hydro but a relatively small dam to supply Stanthorpe and district with drinking and irrigation supplies. Meantime, coal fired power stations in QLD are being closed 10 years ahead of schedule as the Palaszczuk government attempts to meet its 50% renewables target by 2030.


  11. Roger W says:

    You need a few big dams, not lots of tiny ones, but the Greenies seem to be happy with tiny, which is why they are happening. As usual, not rational or logical but, hey, this is the 21st century. Emotion and scamming rule.

  12. Figures says:

    The truly staggering aspect of all this is why the Right didn’t respond to global warming hysteria by saying “You’re right. We need lots and lots of nuclear.”

    Lib politicians should have responded to every article on global warming by declaring a feasibility study for a new reactor.

    Instead we fantasized that the Left cared one iota about the environment when of course zero of them do. So we tried to convince them that their policies weren’t that environmentally friendly after all.

  13. max says:

    When sovereignty is transferred from God to the secular state, does not disestablish theocracy, but rather creates a theocracy built around a new god, the power state.

    we do have now a theocracy without God, an idolatry of the will of man, and atheism.

    If the state is the source of law, then it is the source of punishment for all transgressions, and no dissent is permissible. As a result, systematically humanistic societies become totalitarian and tyrannical. They move from punishing offenses to punishing dissent.

  14. Arky says:

    Hydro power is good.
    I don’t give a shit what size the things are. Build them. Build them everywhere. Beats the shit out of solar or stupid windmills.
    Why the FUCK are you quoting from and linking to insane greeny bullshit?

  15. Arky says:

    We are committed to connecting nature and people in a peaceful Europe – beyond national borders. Our donors support us in this endeavour.

    The growth-oriented way we lead our lives and run our economies at this point in history is characterized by ruthless exploitation of natural resources and has resulted in the pervasive destruction of nature as well as in drastic climate change. People all around the world are feeling the resultant adverse effects.


  16. Roger says:

    Hydro power is good.

    As I mentioned above, the Green tape surrounding any sort of dam contruction will severely restrict its development unless government acts to legislate a clear path for it.

    What do you think the chances of that are?

    The Greenies, ennabled by their useful idiots in state politics in particular, are in control of the agenda.

  17. Arky says:

    The Greenies, ennabled by their useful idiots in state politics in particular, are in control of the agenda.

    This post is talking about Europe, not Australia.
    Any energy that isn’t wind or solar and which adds to baseload is to be encouraged, not shat upon.

  18. pbw says:


    The Greenies, ennabled by their useful idiots in state politics in particular, are in control

    If the media turned against the green agenda, the politics would follow meekly along. The attitude of the media is the thermostat of politics.

  19. Arky says:

    Too many people have a break or breakthrough mentality.
    They either want to win politically and turn back the clock, or see the whole thing collapse and think we can rebuild their ideal world from the ruins.
    That is not how life works.
    The most good is done through prevarication, delay and many tiny, tiny victories, such as that eventually time will do it’s work and many stupid ideas will either go out of fashion or be over run by other events.
    Anything that adds to base load power and keeps the lights on in our civilisation gives us more time to argue our point of view and for other things, often unexpected, to occur that make our opponents views obsolete.
    If small hydro only runs 2% of base load that is 2% further away from failure and away from the deaths of many humans.

  20. Tony Taylor says:

    Planning Engineer is my hero.

  21. Robert Wood says:

    Hydro isn’t the best option here in Australia. We don’t have the regular water flow that is ideal for sustainable hydro operation, plus the best ideal sites for hydro have already been utilised.
    As for the plans for pumped hydro, the energy required to operate this will negate any gains made by power generation. And the plans by some to utilise seawater as the pumping medium (that has been planned for some sites in SA)… I really can’t see any problems occurring with this! (Sarc.) They might as well save themselves some time and salt the earth downstream from these dams, as any spill of seawater is going to kill off any flora present. Madness.

  22. Roger says:

    This post is talking about Europe, not Australia.

    Unfortunately, Green lunacy is decidedly internationalist.

    Any energy that isn’t wind or solar and which adds to baseload is to be encouraged, not shat upon.

    It’s a matter of cost-benefit; with pumped hydro the potential benfit is negigible. And we ain’t New Zealand.

    Farnkly, if we were serious we’d go nuclear. We probably will have to look at small nuclear plants at some stage in the futrure because there’ll be no other realistic options open to us.

    If the media turned against the green agenda, the politics would follow meekly along.

    Sure, but our media are basically the propaganda arm of the Greens.

  23. yarpos says:

    Most of Norways hydro power is run of river hydro rather than dams , so it can be done successfully. Iguess a well thought through design, and implementation and a big picture view can work where a disjointed bunch of virtue signalling projects may not.

  24. Robert Wood says:

    Roger, nuclear in the form of Small Modular Reactors would be ideal for remote minesites and rural towns.

  25. Diogenes says:

    Dot, it took 16 years to gain approval for the last dam built in QLD. And that was not pumped hydro but a relatively small dam to supply Stanthorpe and district with drinking and irrigation supplies.

    I was living in Stanthorpe at the time, family are still there …

    No it was NOT built, NOR was it approved as they were still waiting for approval from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority as it was to dam the Severn which through the Dumaresque & MacIntyre Rivers flows into the Darling. It was cancelled by the new Southern Downs Council formed in 2008 from the shotgun marriage of Stanthorpe (which had the cash it was squirrelling away for the dam) and ‘broke’ Warwick. We were promised a pipeline from Leslie Dam which is wide & shallow and when ‘chock-a-block full looses twice as much in evaporation as is extracted for use every day, instead. Needless to say said pipeline has not been built 13 years later – sigh.

    During the last drought when they were trucking water into Stanthorpe, Council could not even get permission to use the opportunity of low water levels to remove the silt that had built up in 50 years and restore the original capacity of Storm King Dam.

    The last completed dam in Qld was Wyaralong Dam completed in 2011, and according to SEQ Water within 4 weeks of it being finished, it saw unusually heavy rain, so filled and spilled very quickly.

  26. Rafe Champion says:

    I should have made it clear in the original post that I have just updated to point out that the small projects they are talking about deliver 10MW or less. That is like 4 or 5 old windmills or 3 new ones.

    All these schemes need to be evaluated on their merits, including environmental impact and cost/benefit. Hard to see the case for 200 small hydro schemes to deliver the same power as a decent-sized coal station.

    What yarpos said! And Robert Wood.

  27. Robert Wood says:

    Rafe, you would think that from an engineering perspective that it would be preferable to maximise the energy generated in the smallest footprint achievable. Yet this isn’t the case when green ideology trumps common sense.

  28. Rafe Champion says:

    Engineering perspective? You have got to be joking (sarc). What about a debate between the uni modellers who found 20,000 sites for small hydro in NSW and the greens? I think they found about 40 sites for smal hydro in Tasmania as well.

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