Green innovation can unlock the complementary strengths of renewables

The energy transition is more important today than ever before. A new energy paradigm is inevitable to meet the net-zero goals of the UNFCCC Paris Agreement. At EDP, we believe that these goals are achievable, and we are investing our efforts in a green, sustainable and inclusive energy transition. Green energy, innovation and sustainability are our choices and our strategic commitments, write Joana Freitas, Pedro Sirgado and Luís Brandão.

We choose green energy: the hydropower sector on the new energy mix.

A future energy mix based on renewable energy will have solar, wind and hydropower as key sources for the electric system. Solar and wind power will have a significant increase in installed capacity and production share, both worldwide and in the EDP portfolio.

However, hydropower has a relevant role in the energy transition beyond its production share. This role is both a challenge and a vast opportunity. Its contribution to the flexibility and safety of electrical systems, reliability and long asset life are essential for the world's current and future renewable energy supply.

Moreover, we are empowering our hydro fleet with solutions and technologies capable of meeting the energy transition challenge. A new energy mix with a high daily or seasonal intermittency will need a complementarity of sources and seasonal and short-term energy storage to meet demand.

So, we are leveraging energy storage capabilities in the form of pumped hydroelectric storage, valuing existing assets and ensuring short-term and seasonal energy storage. At EDP, we are looking to reinforce the pumped hydropower capacity in existing hydro plants.

We choose innovation: ways to innovate and add value to our hydropower plants.

Innovation is at the heart of our strategy, and we believe that the development of new projects can be a turning point for the energy panorama. A favorable legislative and regulatory framework can boost the development of new projects. But, in a rapid shift towards carbon neutrality, there are opportunities for innovation in hydropower that are essential to seize now.  

The increased penetration of renewable energies will require a significant boost in the flexibility and ancillary services of systems. Thus, with a conducive environment, hydroelectric plants can offer a wide range of services that keep the electrical system stable and avoid blackouts, such as voltage control, black start, and inertia control.

We are involved in pilot projects to test and develop new solutions to endow our fleet with additional flexibility, to offer increasingly necessary system services and explore new business opportunities.

Furthermore, we are developing hybrid projects, connecting our assets with onshore wind and adjacent solar farms. This kind of project optimises the use of the idle capacity of the grid connection point, especially by coupling hydro and solar resources (that tend to have complementary hourly profiles).

The solution avoids further investment in infrastructure and the impact of more power transition or distribution lines, also a sustainability commitment. Beyond this, if pumped hydropower capacity is available, we can prevent renewables curtailment by storing surplus energy.

In this regard, EDP is developing a pipeline of nearly 500 MW in hybrid projects in Portugal and evaluating new opportunities in Spain and Brazil.

"EDP is developing a pipeline of nearly 500 MW in hybrid projects in Portugal and evaluating new opportunities in Spain and Brazil."

We choose sustainability: hydropower is part of the solution, not the problem.

At EDP, we are committed to the environment and to the communities we operate in. For the energy transition to be sustainable, it needs efficiency in all resources. We must explore the potential of other ways to innovate on sustainability and add value to existing hydropower plants. We are actively working towards this, ensuring that our hydro fleet becomes more resilient and efficient.

We are developing floating solar farms in dams' reservoirs, reducing the pressure on agricultural or natural forest soil, and using available surfaces, avoiding negative environmental impacts.

In 2017, we developed one of the world's first pilot projects at our Alto Rabagão dam. Since August 2022, we also have a 5 MW project on Alqueva dam, Western Europe's largest artificial lake. The solar panels cover a space equivalent to the size of four football pitches (12,000 panels) and will produce 7.5 GWh/year, enough to power 1,500 homes. This project is also an innovative sustainability example, with floaters made with cork composite instead of plastic, reducing the carbon footprint by 30%.

Furthermore, the Portuguese Government announced it would tender 400 MW of floating photovoltaic in reservoirs. Last April, a half was tendered, with EDP being awarded the largest project (70 MW), also in Alqueva. By adding a wind hybrid project and overcapacity, EDP will install 150 MW on that point with floating photovoltaic and onshore wind.

For us, hydropower is part of the solution and not a problem, and we are aware of the hydropower sector challenges, particularly on the impact of climate change. Climate change will increase water scarcity and rainstorms in southern Europe, where we have many of our hydroelectric assets. This is why we have developed our own Climate Change Adaptation Plan, focused on business impacts, nearby communities and territory.

This planning tool focuses on the climate change impacts on the sector, and its part in water management and complementary uses. Our approach to adapt for the future highlights the company's best practices, the highest sustainability standards, stakeholder mobilisation capacity and the ability to create and share value.

We choose earth.

This guides us through all our actions and commitments. We are creating a new energy on the planet to achieve carbon neutrality. We are investing in hydropower innovation with flexibility, hybridisation and floating solar projects. At EDP, we believe that sustainability and hydropower are compatible and inseparable.

"We believe that sustainability and hydropower are compatible and inseparable."

In this context, it is with great satisfaction that we see all the commitment and efforts of the sector. The principles of the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower are an important milestone to guarantee a clean, green, modern and affordable sustainable hydropower. The Hydropower Sustainability Standard designed by the Hydropower Sustainability Council is also an important contribution to the sector’s sustainable growth.

Each project is an opportunity to promote healthy ecosystems, prosperous communities, resilient infrastructure and good governance.

At the center of the energy transition, we are promoting renewable energy on a worldwide scale, using the power of wind, sun and water to be all green by 2030. For this, we are changing tomorrow now.

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