API: What will be your key issues as new President of the Austrian Small Hydropower Assocation? Wagner: The prime goal will be to convince the public that (small) hydropower is the best form of producing electricity from renewable energies and that there is enough potential for revitalisation and new construction projects. Another aim is to get our association actively involved in the implementation process of the Water Framework Directive and in the development of a federal Hydropower Master Plan. We are currently in the phase of assessing potentials which, as we believe, should initially exclude all economic aspects. In a second step, we should then discard those options which are politically undesirable and economically unfeasible. API: The road to the Hydropower Master Plan is also paved with heated debates, most recently in Styria, where the catalogue of criteria for watercourses was criticised for being too “hydropower- friendly”. Wagner: Similar catalogues have been drafted in Tyrol, Upper and Lower Austria. All catalogues and surveys will eventually need to be “blended” into a nationwide uniform solution. We expect the first results early next year. API: The Austrian Environmental Umbrella Association (UWD) demands that “prohibition zones” for hydropower are identified and water utilisation fees are levied from hydropower plant operators (“water should no longer be free”). What’s your opinion? Wagner: Although some of UWD’s comments are pretty emotional in tone, I do respect them. But rather than engaging in polemics and defamation, I try to find convincing arguments. The introduction of a water utilisation fee will undoubtedly burden consumers with higher energy prices. Generally, I don’t think it is desirable to raise the initial cost to an extent that small hydropower plants (SHP) can only be operated by large utilities. API: So far we haven’t heard a statement from you as regards eco-electricity legislation and tariffs. Wagner: We prefer to discuss these issues backstage with the stakeholders. Our situation is more dramatic than that of other plant operators. Unless we get a new ordinance on tariffs before yearend, all SHP projects will be stopped and this threatens the existence of several operators! New plants and the ecological adjustments required by the WFD also need to pay off with the new tariffs. API: What do you think of the WFD and its provisions banning “deterioration” and promoting “improvement”? Wagner: We are certainly in favour of energy recovery amidst an intact natural environment. But it will be an impossible task to rehabilitate all hydroengineering installations of the last hundred years until 2015. We therefore try to urge Brussels to grant us an extension of the implementation deadlines. There must be room for slight deviations from the natural condition. But it is also clear that past ecological offences need to be remedied. API: Our government is working towards a 80 % eco-electricity quota by 2020. Is this realistic? Wagner: As long as power consumption is increasing by 2 – 3 % annually, definitely not! The first thing to do is to stop this increase. API: Thank you for the interview.
(Source: aqua press Int. 4/2007, Dr. Klaus Fischer, Mag. Christof Hahn)