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Integrated Impact Assessment for Sustainable Hydropower Planning in the Vjosa Catchment (Greece, Albania)

Rebecca Peters (), Jürgen Berlekamp (), Ana Lucía (), Vittoria Stefani (), Klement Tockner () and Christiane Zarfl ()
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Rebecca Peters: Center for Applied Geoscience, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
Jürgen Berlekamp: Institute of Environmental Systems Research, University of Osnabrück, 49076 Osnabrück, Germany
Ana Lucía: Center for Applied Geoscience, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
Vittoria Stefani: Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering, University of Trento, 38123 Trento, Italy
Klement Tockner: Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, 60325 Frankfurt a. M., Germany
Christiane Zarfl: Center for Applied Geoscience, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany

Sustainability, 2021, vol. 13, issue 3, 1-18

Abstract: Mitigating climate change, while human population and economy are growing globally, requires a bold shift to renewable energy sources. Among renewables, hydropower is currently the most economic and efficient technique. However, due to a lack of impact assessments at the catchment scale in the planning process, the construction of hydropower plants (HPP) may have unexpected ecological, socioeconomic, and political ramifications in the short and in the long term. The Vjosa River, draining parts of Northern Greece and Albania, is one of the few predominantly free-flowing rivers left in Europe; at the same time its catchment is identified an important resource for future hydropower development. While current hydropower plants are located along tributaries, planned HPP would highly impact the free-flowing main stem. Taking the Vjosa catchment as a case study, the aim of this study was to develop a transferable impact assessment that ranks potential hydropower sites according to their projected impacts on a catchment scale. Therefore, we integrated established ecological, social, and economic indicators for all HPP planned in the river catchment, while considering their capacity, and developed a ranking method based on impact categories. For the Vjosa catchment, ten hydropower sites were ranked as very harmful to the environment as well as to society. A sensitivity analysis revealed that this ranking is dependent upon the selection of indicators. Small HPP showed higher cumulative impacts than large HPP, when normalized to capacity. This study empowers decision-makers to compare both the ranked impacts and the generated energy of planned dam projects at the catchment scale.

Keywords: dams; sediment entrapment; river fragmentation; human resettlement; river management; small reservoirs; renewable energies; sustainable development; biodiversity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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