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SEI report

Swedish hydropower and the EU Water Framework Directive

This project report examines how Sweden is trying to bring hydropower governance into line with the EU Water Framework Directive, and issues this has raised.

Andreas Lindström / Published on 11 October 2017

Lindström, A. and A. Ruud (2017). Swedish hydropower and the EU Water Framework Directive. SEI Project Report 2017-01.

Hydropower is an important contributor to Sweden’s energy mix, with a history going back over a century. Many of the current installations and concessions predate modern environmental regulations. As a result, Sweden is now engaged in a major process of reforming hydropower governance, largely informed by the European Union’s 2000 Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Boden hydropower plant, Sweden
Boden hyropower plant, Sweden Photo: Vattenfall / Flickr

The WFD calls for bringing water bodies in the EU to at least “Good Ecological Status”. However, less stringent standards may be allowed in water bodies where there is a demonstrable trade-off between environmental and other societal goods – not least renewable energy supply.

This project report provides non-Swedish readers with an overview of Sweden’s attempts to reform the governance of its hydropower sector: the processes, the guidelines and recommendations. It also looks at some of the controversies and unresolved questions that have emerged, particularly around how to identify Heavily Modified Water Bodies (which are exempted from strict environmental standards) and how to manage the trade-off between societal and environmental goods.

The report is an output of the project Sustainable Governance of River Basins with Hydropower Production (SusWater) funded jointly by the Norwegian Research Council, Norwegian energy companies and the Norwegian Environment Agency. SusWater is a project of the Centre for Environmental Design of Renewable Energy (CEDREN).

Download the project report (PDF, 2.8 MB)


SEI author

Topics and subtopics
Water : Water resources
Sweden , EU

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