Austria has only a limited supply of fossil energy. Since the use of other renewable energies is also limited, hydropower plays an important role in power production. In addition to their publicly known benefits such as near-CO2-free electricity production, hydropower plants have a long service life and high availability.
The decisive advantage of hydropower over other renewables is its short-term ability to assure a balanced feed of power into the grid and store up reserves. Especially storage power plants play a vital role in this respect; their importance has increased even further in recent years due to their ability to balance out the inadequate feed-in mode of wind power.
New developments in the IT sector and the trend towards air-conditioned buildings have already led to more frequent peak loads, and no doubt this trend will further increase. Last but not least, storage power plants are highly flexible and vitally contribute to grid safety.
They back up the system when large thermal power plants need to be disconnected from the grid unexpectedly, or when the grid needs to be rebuilt after a major black out. A precondition for the supply safety provided by storage power plants is their unrestricted operation. This, however, cannot be assured without an impact on the water eco-system.
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