Sector-Specific Context, Influencing Factors and Processes

Hydropower Expansion Aims

In the post-war period, the expansion of hydropower was a consensual political goal. Individual measures were enacted to facilitate the sitting of new hydropower plants, for example, the payment of abandonment premiums for the “dismantlement of surplus mill capacities” (BT-Drs. 11/5025, 7/8). But by the 1960s it was already clear that there were only a limited number of suitable sites available.

With the oil crisis in the 1970s, increased emphasis was placed on expansion of hydropower use at the political level (BT-Drs. 8/3468 1979). However, as low as they were, the rates paid by the energy suppliers at the time, at about 8 pfennigs/ kWh,[476] could hardly have offered much incentive for further expansion, at least for small hydropower (ibid).

The German government believed that the country’s potential was nearly exhausted by the beginning of the 1980s (BT-Drs. 11/5025 1989, 1). Nevertheless, referring to studies of hydropower potential at that time, Germany’s political parties still considered hydropower an environmentally friendly alternative and called for its further expansion (BT-Drs. 11/5025). However, assessments of the economic and technical potentials of hydropower did vary. For example, the results of the 1982 Julich Nuclear Research Centre (KfA Julich) study promised considerable enhancement of reserves, amounting to around 33 TWh. Obviously, that study took legal, technical and economic restrictions into account to only a limited degree. In contrast, a DIW/ISI[477] (1984) study found a potential for technically and economi­cally utilizable hydropower of around 21.3-22.5 TWh.

With the growing environmental concerns against the expansion of hydropower use during the 1980s, the Federal Government concluded in 1989 that the concerns of nature conservation and environmental protection would frequently prevent further exploitation of the remaining potential (BT-Drs. 11/5025). Protection of natural water courses represented a considerable impediment to the attainment of higher expansion objectives. Thus there were early signs of a “capping” effect caused by the conflicting objectives aiming at the protection of natural waters and their ecosystems.

Updated: September 24, 2015 — 4:05 am