Pumped storage hydropower has ‘crucial role’ in Europe’s energy strategy

European governments should scale-up their pumped storage capacity, according to the EU Parliament.

MEPs voted resoundingly in favour of a report on energy strategy last week which describes the hydropower technology as playing “a crucial role in energy storage”.


Tabled by Claudia Gamon MEP, the report calls on EU member states to fully explore their energy storage potential looking a range of solutions including pumped hydro. It also requests the European Commission develops a comprehensive strategy on storage in line with renewables targets.

Backed by 557 parliamentarians, with 22 voting against, the report notes that “the EU is not exploiting the full potential of this carbon-neutral and highly efficient way of storing energy.”

“With an efficiency degree of 75-80 per cent, [pumped storage hydropower] accounts for 97 per cent of the EU’s current energy storage facilities. It is a well proven and efficient way of storing energy at competitive costs.”

A series of recommendations are made to remove regulatory barriers to pumped storage projects, including double-charging, tax and permitting obstacles that can delay or hinder market uptake.

In addition the report:

  • Urges EU member states to seek ways to enhance pumped storage hydropower (PSH) capacity, alongside multi-purpose uses of existing and new reservoirs
  • Calls on member states to remove any administrative obstacles to delayed projects, and provide regulatory support for innovative approaches
  • Points to the opportunities and environmental benefits of upgrading existing capacity for storage applications

Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), commented: “The resounding vote by the European Parliament recognises the obvious: we need more energy storage. That will not happen by magic. European politicians have a huge opportunity as part of green economic stimulus packages to facilitate pumped storage hydro development through enabling policies and incentivising markets."

According to IHA’s 2020 Hydropower Status Report, the European region - including non-EU member states such as the United Kingdom and Turkey - has a total installed capacity of 55 gigawatts. Reflecting the slow growth in additional pumped storage capacity, just four MW of additional capacity was added across the region in 2019.

Twelve proposed pumped storage projects were included in the European Commission’s list of cross-border Projects of Common Interest (PCIs). Recommendations were also published as part of the EU Taxonomy for sustainable finance, in the form of guidance and eligibility criteria for investments into sectors. These support green growth and align with the EU’s net zero 2050 target, including hydropower.

The EU commission has also recently launched research and innovation initiatives focusing on hydropower’s potential, including Hydropower Europe, XFLEX HYDRO (Hydropower Extending Power System Flexibility), and Hydroflex.

Learn more about pumped storage hydropower by downloading IHA’s working paper: ‘The world’s water battery: Pumped hydropower storage and the clean energy transition’

View our Pumped Storage Tracking Tool

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