European energy consortium upgrades hydropower plants to support power grid

Lausanne, 31 January 2024 – Energy leaders met in Switzerland today to hear about a series of technological upgrades made to hydropower plants across Europe to support the energy transition and secure the stability of the power grid.

The upgrades are part of the 4-year, EUR-18m, research and innovation project XFLEX HYDRO. The project combined internationally-recognised expertise to study and demonstrate that it is possible to extend the flexibility of existing hydropower plants using advanced software solutions and modest technological upgrades. The project marks a step change in our understanding of the benefits hydropower offers and our ability to provide much-needed stability services to the power grid.

A major renewable energy technology, hydropower has been providing clean, renewable, and reliable energy around the world for over 150 years. Serving as the backbone of many power systems, hydropower has generated renewed interest in recent years, as the global drive for renewable energy has gathered pace. The mainly digital upgrades of XFLEX HYDRO represent a shift from traditional, hardware-focused modernisation initiatives. By enhancing the ability of hydropower plants to provide not only baseline and peak power but also crucial grid stability services, the project has uncovered new potential value.

The event, held at the Aula Des Cèdres, in Lausanne (Switzerland) explored a series of upgrades, including: hydropower turbine and battery hybrid, variable speed turbines, as well as new and optimised operational modes. Some 250 participants discussed some of the hottest topics in the board room of energy companies and in technology centres around the world and offered an opportunity to get industry professionals, policy-makers and influencers on the same page. Discussions included: how do we prepare for the energy transition, how do we manage the rise of intermittent renewable energy and: how do we get the most out of hydropower assets?

Eddie Rich, CEO IHA commented:

"The European Union's vision for 2050 hinges on renewable energy sources constituting over 80% of its energy, a significant leap from 37.5% in 2020. This means that sustainable hydropower will continue to play a central role in Europe’s clean energy transition in the coming years. The extent to which the technology will contribute to this target will depend on our ability to take full advantage of its benefits.

We are proud to work alongside expert partners from across Europe on the XFLEX HYDRO journey and look forward to more collaboration in the coming years. The decarbonisation of European electricity will inevitably involve significant clean, green, modern and affordable hydropower. XFLEX HYDRO lights the path."

Amédée Murisier, Head Hydropower at Alpiq commented:

“Alpiq already has flexible assets like Nant de Drance and is seeking to extend the flexibility of its portfolio with state-of-the-art technologies to contribute to an improved security of supply. The XFLEX HYDRO project has enabled us to progress with this while strengthening our strategic partnerships with universities and schools.”

Joana Freitas, Board Member at EDP Generation, commented:

The XFLEX HYDRO project has been of great importance to the Generation platform at EDP Group. Not only has it allowed us to reflect on the importance of the hydro fleet in achieving increasing flexibility, but it has also innovatively challenged EDP’s engineers and technological partners to go beyond in optimizing existing assets without significant need for intensive capital expenditure.  For 4 years, besides having tested and successfully achieved all our set objectives, it also contributed to challenging the community of interested partners and generating scientific knowledge. We are looking forward to implementing what we have learned in our assets, thereby promoting hydroelectric generation as a critical player on net-zero mission.

Emmanuelle Verger-Chabot, CEO EDF Hydro, commented:

“Modernising existing plants and enabling them to provide their full potential is essential to the present and future of hydropower in Europe, especially given the increased requirements with regards to flexibility. In that sense, the XFLEX HYDRO project has already provided tangibles benefits for EDF’s participating plants.”


XFLEX HYDRO is a €18m-research and innovation project supported by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 programme for research and technological development. Scheduled to run until early 2024, the project is designed to demonstrate the capability of upgraded hydropower plants to improve the quality and reliability of the power grid. Nineteen leading organisations in the hydropower and broader energy sectors are part of the XFLEX HYDRO consortium, including national utilities EDF (France) and EDP (Portugal), Swiss energy service provider Alpiq, GE, Voith Hydro, Andritz Hydro and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Learn more about XFLEX HYDRO at

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