European hydro capacity compared to the demand for electricity

Hydro Capacity in the EU-15 and Norway

22 days the energy storage capacity of hydro across Western Europe, (the EU15 countries plus Norway and Iceland),  expressed in terms of average daily electricity demand

177 TWh the storage capacity, put another way. That’s the same as 0.604 quads, 22MTCe, 15 MTOe, 152Pcal,  637PJ, or 465kWh per person across the 381 million people in the EU15+Norway.

147 GW the peak capacity of hydro across Western Europe.

And there’s more:

Went live in 2009

Being built now

Plans for Britain

SSE have announced that they will build two new pumped hydro storage facilities in Scotland, each to be 300-600MW

Beyond the EU15, but within Europe

  • 185 MW Avce, Slovenia, completed in 2009
  • 1,000 MW Limmern project, Linthal Valley, Switzerland
  • 628 MW Nant de Drance project, Switzerland
  • 430 MW Reisseck 2 project, Austria

Final thoughts and caveats

Given that Gregor Czisch required direct personal correspondence4 with UCTE to get a figure for hydro storage capacity for 1997, I expect one would have to do the same again today to get the figure for the expanded UCTE grid, and for figures more recent than 1997. As far as I can tell from the ENTSOE-E site, although the figures for peak capacity are available online, the storage capacity numbers are not: if you can provide those numbers, or a link to them, I’d be grateful. The NORDEL 2008 Annual Statistics show that their reservoirs still hold 121 TWh.  The storage figure expressed as 22 days of consumption does not mean that we could turn off all other generation for 22 days, and only use hydro: each plant has a peak power output that limits what could be generated.


  1. “Nordel, Installed capacity on 31 Dec. 1996”, Nordel, Oslo 1997.
  2. “Nordel, Water Reservoirs 1996”, Nordel, Oslo 1997
  3. “UCTE Annual Statistics 1998”, Vienna, 1998
  4. “Speicherkapazitäten der Wasserkraftwerke innerhalb der UCTE, Stand 1997”, Personal correspondence between Gregor Czisch and UCTE, 2000
  5. HRW (formerly Hydro Review Weekly), (ISSN 1072-9542), pp12-25, Vol. 17, No. 6, December 2009

5 comments on “European hydro capacity compared to the demand for electricity

  1. A more realistic scenario that those put forward before i suggest.

    Pumped storage is best dropped from these figures as they require recharging at night time through unused fossil baseload.

    Under no circumstances would any operator allow these resource to fill long term unpredictable duration base load shortages, e.g. wind deficit, except perhaps UK where the short term £ has priority over long term resreve management. Their importance on peak demand management is vital. The recharge time for these resources compared to their discharge rates, i.e. stored volumes are days and weeks, months in summer.

  2. David, no one has ever suggested using this amount of hydro as a replacement for base load. It is merely a huge resource for storage which will cover as wind fluctuates, allowing existing, even base load stations, probably on warming, to be started in due time and without damage.

  3. Dave,

    look at page 108 Tabelle 7.2 in my dissertation. There are mentioned

    Power of storage hydropower in the scenario area 133 GW
    Production from storage hydropower in the scenario area 405 TWh
    Strage capacity of storage hydropower in the scenario area 241 TWh

    Some figures are from UCTE. Others – at least as important – are from Nordel. And less important are from other sources. These sources are not mentioned in the above article (If he would have cited my dissertation. it would have been better.) I am not convinced that the consumption did grow so much that the quotient between storage capacity (at 1998) and consumption (now) declined so much that now there are only 22 days of storage instead of significantly more than a month. But I do not think it is impossible that the raise in consumption did a considerable part toward it. You may figure this out by checking the current consumption data. On the other hand we do not really use the same consuming countries. Therefore another difference is necessary. In my scenario area the consumption was 3983 TWh. Therefore the Storage capacity here was equivalent to 22 days of the average consumption and the production from storage hydropower was good for 37 days. (Run off river hydropower is not considered.)

    By the way, it is possible that not the whole storage capacity is included because there was a luck of information from other areas than UCTE and Nordel. Furthermore it should be mentioned that it is possible to enlarge the rated power of many storage hydropower stations at relatively low costs. This means the peak production could be significantly enlarged. This would be very helpful for coping with high ammounts of fluctuating renewables. There are scenarios which show that.

    An update of all figures would be welcome.



    Dr.-Ing. Dipl.-Phys. Gregor Czisch
    Mobil +49 (0) 163 826 7921
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