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XFLEX HYDRO: A power system with innovative hydropower technology


XFELX HYDRO is a major new energy innovation project to demonstrate how smart hydropower technologies can deliver a low-carbon, reliable and resilient power system was launched today. XFLEX HYDRO (Hydropower Extending Power System Flexibility) project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. A €18 million initiative that has been announced by the European Commission and a consortium of 19 partners at the United Nations climate change conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. This project will show how innovative and flexible hydropower systems can help countries across the world meet their renewable energy targets.

The XFLEX HYDRO (Hydropower Extending Power System Flexibility) project is a four-year initiative by leading utilities, equipment manufacturers, universities, research centres and consultancies. It will demonstrate how modern hydropower plants can provide the vital power grid services required by variable renewables such as wind and solar power. The launch comes after a major UN Emissions Gap Report looking at ways to reduce global carbon emissions said that greater power system flexibility was “key” to integrating larger shares of variable renewable energy into the power supply.

The XFLEX HYDRO technologies to be tested are enhanced variable- and fixed-speed turbine systems, smart controls and a battery-turbine hybrid, each of which will be demonstrated at hydropower plant sites across Europe: Z’Mutt in Switzerland, Grand Maison and Vogelgrün in France, and Frades 2, Alqueva, Alto Lindoso and Caniçada in Portugal.

The project will conclude in 2023 by delivering a roadmap to increase adoption of the technologies across the hydropower fleet, with policy and market recommendations for governments, regulators and industry.

The initiative has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It aims to help the EU achieve a target of achieving 32% of energy from renewable sources by 2030.


The UN Emissions Gap Report, stating that power system flexibility is key to integrating larger shares of variable renewable energy into the power supply, was published by the United Nations Environment Programme on 26 November 2019.

European Commission:

Mr Patrick Child, Deputy Director-General for the European Commission’s Directorate-General Research and Innovation, commented: “Combining the excellence and expertise of 19 partners from across Europe, the XFLEX HYDRO project will test innovative solutions based on renewable energy sources that will provide greater flexibility and sustainability to the energy system. The project aims to increase hydropower’s potential in terms of plant efficiency, thereby boosting electrical power systems and enabling plant and system operators to operate more successfully in electricity markets. This can make an impactful contribution to European renewable energy objectives and policies.”


Professor François Avellan of EPFL, the research institute and university leading the project, stated: “Across Europe countries are embracing large-scale electricity generation from renewables such as solar and wind power and shifting away from conventional fossil fuels for electricity generation. The growth in variable renewables is changing how power grids operate, with potential impacts on the stability and security on the whole power grid. This places unprecedented challenges on the hydropower sector to provide flexible and reliable services to the grid.

“The technologies demonstrated by the XFLEX HYDRO project will help hydropower to consolidate its critical role to support the integration of variable renewables into the power grid. This will ensure hydropower operators can maximise their performance and access future energy markets,” he added.

International Hydropower Association:

Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), which is responsible for XFLEX HYDRO project communications, said: “We need to decarbonise the power sector, and fast, if we are to limit the devastating impacts of climate change. Last month’s UN Emissions Gap Report is a stark reminder that we need hydropower to boost the contribution of variable renewables like wind and solar. The XFLEX HYDRO initiative represents a clear commitment by the European Commission, leading organisations from the hydropower sector and academia to invest in new and innovative hydropower technologies.”

Project partners:

The consortium is a well formed one the leading partner is EPFL – Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), based in Lausanne, Switzerlan. And the others are Alpiq – a leading Swiss energy services provider and electricity producer in Europe. Andritz AT – a global supplier of electromechanical systems and services for hydropower plants. Andritz CH – a Swiss subsidiary of ANDRITZ HYDRO GmbH in Switzerland. ARMINES – a private non-profit research and technological organisation performing research contractual activities and academic research training. CEA – CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) is a French public body and the country’s largest technology research and development provider. EDF – EDF Group is the world’s leading electricity company, particularly well established in Europe. EDP CNET – EDP Centre for New Energy Technologies (EDP CNET) is a subsidiary of the EDP Group with the mission to create value through collaborative R&D in the energy sector. EDP P – EDP Gestão da Produção da Energia, S.A. GE HYDRO – GE Renewable Energy brings together one of the broadest energy products and digital services portfolios in the renewable energy industry. HES SO – the largest university of applied sciences in Switzerland and the second largest higher education institution of the country. IHA – The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a non-profit membership organisation committed to advancing sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. INESC TEC – a private non-profit institution having as associates the University of Porto, INESC and the Polytechnic Institute of Porto. PVE – Power Vision Engineering is a spin-off company of the Ecole polytechnique féderale de Lausanne, provides software solutions and expertise in the field of hydropower plant transient and dynamic behaviour. SuperGrid Institute – an independent research and innovation centre that works to facilitate the wide-scale integration of renewable resources into the electrical grid. UPC – Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya is a public institution dedicated to higher education and research, specialised in the fields of architecture, engineering and technology. USTUTT – The University of Stuttgart. Voith Hydro – The Voith Group is a global technology company. And ZABALA Innovation Consulting.

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