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Special Issue "Hydropower Production"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Pedro F. A. Manso

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
Website | E-Mail
Interests: dams and hydraulic structures; hydropower (large/small/pumped-storage); hydrology and water resources; hydraulic modelling; rock scour; sediment management; air-water-rock interaction; fluid-structure/interface interaction

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Hydropower is the most globally-spread renewable energy source, as well as the one with the largest share in the electricity global mix. The related infrastructure is deployed globally, and has been in technological development since the late 19th century. Its relevant role on anthropic activities, its impacts on human societies and on the natural environment is obviously not consensual. For sovereignty and/or social-economic development reasons, societies have been willing to invest significant shares of their resources, both natural and cultural, to deploy hydropower. External judgment on past and present choices is often controversial.

The focus of this Special Issue is on the compromise that must be sought between the benefits of hydropower infrastructure in terms of electricity generation, protection from water related hazards and of human development, and on the other hand, their footprint in terms of territory, ecological and human values. In developed regions, ageing infrastructure is not perennial, and its role is being revised according to changing legal, market, and climate conditions and today’s societal valuation of ecological values. In developing regions, lost time in infrastructure implementation is seen as worse than poorly complying, or being average, with respect to known best practices. Public authorities, international institutions, engaged stakeholders and common citizens have to make choices and find compromises with decades-long, if not century-long implications, which makes this issue an object of passionate debate.

The scope of the target publications should be on solutions that are being developed or have been found and implemented, as well as their monitoring, to address the abovementioned dilemma, faced by stakeholders in the water and energy sectors. We are interested to learn your experiences in finding new agreements between utility, security and ecology, in different geographies. Ideally, you could provide tangible evidence on how, in different contexts, the need for development of local societies is being equated with the lessons learned and the transfer of practices across the globe. No solution fits all cases and, therefore, research should help in establishing objective methodologies to monitor the footprint and performance of infrastructure, and assist in finding trade-off relationships between the multiple uses and needs related with water and territory. Last, but not the least, the (long) time scale of analysis and impacts merits guaranteeing the availability, quality and accessibility of hydrometric and other relevant hydropower data, which should be explicitly mentioned and discussed in the submitted contributions.

We welcome contributions on:

  • Mitigation of hydropower footprint, in terms of hydropeaking attenuation, fish migration, sediment routing across watersheds, variable ecological flow and greenhouse gas balance of reservoirs and power plants;
  • The role of hydropower storage reservoirs and pumping stations in facilitating the integration of larger shares of intermittent renewable sources like solar and wind;
  • Balancing the positive and negative impacts of hydropower infrastructure in remote regions;
  • Energy recovery by hydropower within existing infrastructure (e.g., urban, industrial, transport)
  • The challenges and opportunities faced by hydropower under changing climate conditions.
  • The role of hydrometric data in territory and infrastructure policy making and management, as well as on sustainability assessment methodologies for well-informed decisions;
  • Transgenerational repartition of investment costs, social benefits and ecological footprint.
  • Other, related with hydropower production in its different topologies, operation modes, economic roles, social impacts, ecological trade-offs, heritages, asset values, risks and benefits.

Dr. Pedro F. A. Manso
Guest Editor


[1] International Hydropower Association - IHA (2010), Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. Available online: http://www.hydrosustainability.org/Hydropower-Sustainablility-Assessment-Protocol/Documents.aspx (access on 25 August 2017).

[2] Manso, P.; Schleiss, A.; Stähli, M.; Avellan, F. Electricity supply and hydropower development in Switzerland. The Int. Journal of Hydropower and Dams 2016, 23, 41–47.

[3] Schaefli, B. Projecting hydropower production under future climates: a guide for decision‐makers and modelers to interpret and design climate change impact assessments. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water 2015, 2, 271–289.

[4] Bousquet, C.; Samora, I.; Manso, P.A.; Rossi, L.; Heller, P.; Schleiss, A. J. Assessment of hydropower potential in wastewater systems and application to Switzerland. Renewable Energy 2017, 113, 64–73, DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2017.05.062

[5] Samora, I.; Manso, P.; Franca, M.J.; Schleiss, A.J.; Ramos, H.M. Opportunity and economic feasibility of inline micro hydropower units in water supply networks. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management 2016. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000700.

[6] Gurung A.B.; Borsdorf, A.; Füreder, L.; Kienast, F; Matt, P.; Scheidegger, C.; Schmocker, L.; Zappa, M.; Volkart, L. Rethinking pumped storage hydropower in the european alps. Mountain Research and Development 2016, 36, 222–232.

[7] Winemiller, K.O.; Mclntyre, P.B.; Castello, E.; Fluet-Chouinard, E.; Giarrizzo, T.; Nam, S.; Baird, I.G.; Darwall, W.; Lujan, N.K.; Harrison, I.; et al. Balancing hydropower and biodiversity in the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong. Science 2016, 351, 128–129.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • water-related nexus utility-security-ecology
  • renewable electricity
  • energy recovery
  • energy storage
  • sediment balance
  • fish migration
  • hydropeaking
  • greenhouse gas balance
  • UN SD Goals

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Open AccessArticle The Impact of Climate Change on Swiss Hydropower
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2541; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072541
Received: 30 June 2018 / Revised: 16 July 2018 / Accepted: 17 July 2018 / Published: 19 July 2018
PDF Full-text (1145 KB)
Hydropower represents an important pillar of electricity systems in many countries. It not only plays an important role in mitigating climate change, but is also subject to climate-change impacts. In this paper, we use the Swiss electricity market model Swissmod to study the
[...] Read more.
Hydropower represents an important pillar of electricity systems in many countries. It not only plays an important role in mitigating climate change, but is also subject to climate-change impacts. In this paper, we use the Swiss electricity market model Swissmod to study the effects of changes in water availability due to climate change on Swiss hydropower. Swissmod is an electricity dispatch model with a plant-level representation of 96% of Swiss hydropower plants and their interrelations within cascade structures. Using this detailed model in combination with spatially disaggregated climate-change runoff projections for Switzerland, we show that climate change has ambiguous impacts on hydropower and on the overall electricity system. Electricity prices and overall system costs increase under dry conditions and decrease under average or wet conditions. While the change of seasonal patterns, with a shift to higher winter runoff, has positive impacts, the overall yearly inflow varies under hydrological conditions. While average and wet years yield an increase in inflows and revenues, dry years become drier, resulting in the opposite effect. Even though different in magnitude, the direction of impacts persists when applying the same changes in inflows to the 2050 electricity system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hydropower Production)
Open AccessArticle Floating Away: The Impact of Hydroelectric Power Stations on Tourists’ Experience in Iceland
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2315; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072315
Received: 27 May 2018 / Revised: 25 June 2018 / Accepted: 2 July 2018 / Published: 4 July 2018
PDF Full-text (9720 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
It is of vital importance that nature-based tourist destinations maintain their natural resources in a sustainable way. Nature and wilderness are the main attractions for tourism in Iceland. The Central Highlands are uninhabited with little visible evidence of human influence except for some
[...] Read more.
It is of vital importance that nature-based tourist destinations maintain their natural resources in a sustainable way. Nature and wilderness are the main attractions for tourism in Iceland. The Central Highlands are uninhabited with little visible evidence of human influence except for some huts, gravel roads, and a small number of hydroelectric power plants. However, there are plans for further hydroelectric power development in the area. The Blanda Power Station was constructed in 1991 at the edge of the North Central Highlands. This paper presents the results of a questionnaire survey conducted among tourists in the area in the summer of 2016 with a total of 1078 answered questionnaires. The objective was to estimate the impact of the power station on the experience of tourists and to assess whether their attitude differs from that of tourists in locations where power plant construction has been proposed. The results show that the power plant infrastructure at Blanda, with the exception of transmission lines, does not seem to disturb the experience of the majority of tourists. Tourists at Blanda are also more positive towards power plants than at locations where there are no power plants but where they have been proposed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hydropower Production)

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle Effects of Lake–Reservoir Pumped-Storage Operations on Temperature and Water Quality
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1968; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061968
Received: 14 May 2018 / Revised: 8 June 2018 / Accepted: 8 June 2018 / Published: 12 June 2018
PDF Full-text (1906 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Pumped-storage (PS) hydropower plants are expected to make an important contribution to energy storage in the next decades with growing market shares of new renewable electricity. PS operations affect the water quality of the connected water bodies by exchanging water between them but
[...] Read more.
Pumped-storage (PS) hydropower plants are expected to make an important contribution to energy storage in the next decades with growing market shares of new renewable electricity. PS operations affect the water quality of the connected water bodies by exchanging water between them but also by deep water withdrawal from the upper water body. Here, we assess the importance of these two processes in the context of recommissioning a PS hydropower plant by simulating different scenarios with the numerical hydrodynamic and water quality model CE-QUAL-W2. For extended PS operations, the results show significant impacts of the water exchange between the two water bodies on the seasonal dynamics of temperatures, stratification, nutrients, and ice cover, especially in the smaller upper reservoir. Deep water withdrawal was shown to strongly decrease the strength of summer stratification in the upper reservoir, shortening its duration by ~1.5 months, consequently improving oxygen availability, and reducing the accumulation of nutrients in the hypolimnion. These findings highlight the importance of assessing the effects of different options for water withdrawal depths in the design of PS hydropower plants, as well as the relevance of defining a reference state when a PS facility is to be recommissioned. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hydropower Production)

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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Influence of hydrological and fish habitat suitability indicators on selecting sustainable water distribution policies for hydropower plants.
Authors: Pierre Razurel, Amin Niayifar, Robin Shwemmle, Paolo Perona
Abstract: Hydropower production alters the natural discharge variability and magnitude of streams with consequences for riparian and aquatic habitats. These impacts have shown to be strongly dependent on the water repartition rule adopted at the water intakes and reservoirs. Non-proportional flow redistribution rules have been shown to improve the global (i.e., ecological and economic) efficiency of hydropower. This is seen by plotting the energy produced against the performance of both hydrological and fish habitat suitability indicators aggregated into a unique ecohydrological indicator. However, how the choice and the aggregation method of such indicators may impact the performances of the above policies has never been quantified. In this work, we use the model of Razurel et al. (2018) and Niayifar and Perona (2017) to numerically calculate the contribution of each indicators and their relative weights to the global efficiency curve of the hydropower scheme for an ensemble hydrograph. Six case studies, respectively five Small Hydropower Plants (SHP) without storage, and a traditional dammed system with different river morphologies, are considered. First, the sensitivity analysis shows some groups of indicators be strongly influenced by water allocation policies, in contrast with other indicators whose values seems to be independent of the regulation rule. Second, higher variability of the indicator values is generally expected for traditional dammed systems than for SHP where only a few sub-indicators are clearly impacted by the water allocation policy. Third, indicators are clearly dependent on river morphological features although some similitudes are found for a few groups of indicators. In order to overcome this, two new fish habitat suitability indicators are presented as alternatives to the original ones. In conclusion, we recommend to perform a pre-sensitivity analysis in order to select the most significant sub-indicators when computing the efficiency plot.
Keywords: Hydropower plants, Sensitivity analysis, Water allocation policy, Dynamic flow releases, Environmental indicator.

Title: Hydraulic paradigms, energetic politcies and territorial conflicts in the case of Paraná Medio Hydro-electric Proyect (Argentina)
Author: Gisela Ariana Rausch
Abstract: In the current context of the so called ecological crisis, our interest is in understanding the complexities involved in the construction of large hydraulic projects in Latin American countries. These projects can be considered convergence multi-scale nodes of human and non human processes, of material and discursive, mechanical and organic elements. All of this, linked both to political and social processes, as well as to the aspirations of different conceptions about nature and social change. In this sense, these projects are conceived as biophysical-cultural artifacts which take part in a hidrosocial constellation. Following the multidisciplinary perspective proposed by the Urban Political Ecology, the paper discusses the process of formulation of Paraná Medio hydroelectric project, in Argentina. It identifies two moments in which it was proposed by the national Government: in 1970s, under the National Hydraulic Paradigm, and in the 1990s, under the Private Hydraulic Paradigm. Starting from that conceptualization it is analysed the assembly of hydraulic projects - territory – energy policies - natural resources. The article exposes the ways in which manifested itself this assembly in a particular case, analyzing the relationships between speeches, plans development, territorial projects, use of natural resources and socio-environmental movement.

Title: The impact of Hydro Power Station on tourists’ experience
Author: Anna Dóra Saethorsdottir
Abstract: It would presents the results of a questionnaire survey that was conducted among tourists in the vicinity of Blanda Power Station by northern Kjalvegur mountain road in the summer and fall of 2016. The objective of the research is to estimate the impact of Blanda hydro power station and its appendant infrastructure on the experience of tourists in the area, as well as to assess whether their attitude differs from that of tourists in areas where power plant constructions are pending. In view of this, the results from the area by Blanda power station are compared with the results of similar questionnaires that were conducted in the summer of 2015 in seven areas in Iceland (in Skagafjörður, by Skjálfandafljót, Skaftá, Hagavatn, Nýjidalur, Seltún and Trölladyngja) that were reviewed for the 3rd phase of the Icelandic Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization.

Title: Downscaling general circulation models to predict climate change and climate variability impacts on hydropower in Ghana
Authors: Kofi Antwi Yeboah, Amos T. Kabo-bah, Eric Ofosu Antwi and Chuks. Jude Diji
International conventions such as the UN Sustainable Development Goal #7 and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreement as well as many others are expected to drive further growth in the hydropower sector. These international conventions and agreements seek to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, with emphasis on the reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions to limit global warming to “well below 2°C”. Hydropower contributes significant amount of the world’s total electrical supply but uncertainties in future global climate poses risk to hydropower development. This calls for the consideration of climate change impacts and extreme variability in future hydropower developments, to ensure sound economic investments are made. There have been several climate change studies that involve the use of General Circulation Models (GCMs) to ascertain the impact of climate change on water resources and hydropower. However, findings from studies in the Volta Basin have been mixed depending on the type of scenario and GCM downscaling method used. There is therefore the need to clarify the differences in the climate change impact studies in the Volta Basin. Statistical Downscaling Model (SDSM) eliminates the problem of discordant scales and coarser spatial resolution regarding the use of GCMs in climate impact assessments. This paper therefore applied SDSM Technique to downscale GCMs to predict the impacts of climate change and climate variability on hydropower in Ghana. Findings from this research are expected to be used to evaluate the hydropower generation component in the Energy Master-Plan of Ghana. The authors hope that, this work would also be useful for other hydropower schemes in West Africa and other developing economies.
: Climate Change, Climate Variability, Hydropower, General Circulation Model, Statistical Downscaling Model, Energy

Title: Ecological restoration can mitigate ecological footprints – the Norwegian case of hydropower development
Inger Auestad, Knut Rydgren and Yngve Nilsen
Abstract: Today, hydropower development is regarded a key measure in climate change mitigations, but it comes at a price. In parallel to other sources of renewable energy, hydropower is area-demanding and have a large ecological footprint. It brings about extensive land use changes and disturbances, with subsequent construction of dams, power lines, roads and spoil heaps of surplus rock material, all of which deteriorates nature.
In this paper, we describe the development of hydropower management in Norway and compare the historical context to the present situation. In Norway, hydropower development has a long history due to the country’s natural assets of high mountains and high precipitation. Over the last 100 years, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Administration (NVE) has played in a crucial role in controlling and regulating hydropower development, to balance benefits and disadvantages for Norwegian society and nature. Critics and resistance against hydropower in favour of nature conservation became considerably more important from the early 1960s. NVE responded to this development by establishing a nature conservation office, and employing the first Norwegian state appointed landscape architect. As a compromise between the destroyed nature of traditional hydropower construction and the untouched nature, that was the ideal of the conservation movement, the NVE architect proposed the concept of what he called ´living nature´. This term described restored nature as being constructed and man-made, but still remaining self-sustaining, and with acceptable resemblance to the pre-disturbed situation.
Today, new scientific insights and administrative demands challenge the regime of ‘living nature’. Environmentally-friendly development of hydropower needs to relate to the international obligations on restoration of degraded nature (e.g. the AICHI goal of restoring 15% of degraded nature before 2020). New legislation aiming to hinder use of alien species in vulnerable nature adds to this, and furthermore, the present focus on human benefits of ecosystem services underlines the importance of biodiversity and intact ecosystem function for human well-being.
Using hydropower spoil heaps as a case, we show how the public opinions on the value of wild versus degraded and restored nature has affected natural management. We assess how the goals of restoration have changed throughout the period until today, when the predominant paradigm is the one of ecological restoration, “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed”, according to The Society of Ecological Restoration. We also focus on the role of NVE, as a part of the national water regulative system, for the rise of ecological restoration, and discuss the impact this institutional background has had on the development of this young, but increasingly important discipline.
We finally offer a set of management recommendations grounded in ecological restoration, relevant for area-demanding branches of renewable energy such as hydropower. As shown in the case of Norwegian hydropower development, this can be an alternative for reducing ecological footprints.


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