Statement of the Energy Community Secretariat on small hydropower development

13 November 2018
  1. Hydropower is a natural resource which needs to be exploited in a responsible manner and in line with European rules, but also with general principles such as transparency, legal certainty and accountability. Opposition by the local communities should be taken very seriously by developers and authorities alike. The Secretariat encourages constructive dialogue and is ready to mediate upon request by either side.
  2. The Secretariat supports investments in renewables, and in particular in wind, solar and sustainable biomass where many Energy Community Contracting Parties have significant untapped potential. We also advise Contracting Parties to step up their efforts in making energy efficiency the first policy measure.   
  3. Given their commitments under the Energy Community Treaty, all Contracting Parties must implement legislation on environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment. Hydropower development projects are subject to a so-called screening obligation. If significant negative effects on the environment are established at this stage, a full environmental impact assessment on various factors (such as human beings, fauna and flora, soil, water, air, climate, landscape, material assets, cultural heritage and the interaction between those) must be carried out. The project can only go forward if measures to avoid, reduce and, if possible, offset its major adverse effects are established. When carrying out the screening procedure, the cumulative impacts of different projects in the same geographical area have to be taken into account.
  4. Public participation is an integral and essential part of the environmental assessment procedures, which has to be ensured throughout the process and proven later. Non-compliance with this obligation is a reason to challenge any permit granted.
  5. The obligation to carry out the procedures lies with the national competent authorities. Upon a justified complaint, the Secretariat will initiate a dispute settlement case in order to ensure that Energy Community law is implemented in practice. This possibility is used on a regular basis. The Secretariat is currently assessing a complaint concerning a HPP project in Serbia.
  6. Given the systemic nature of the issues raised, the Secretariat will organize, as soon as possible, a stakeholder meeting bringing together all relevant actors. It will also issue policy guidelines for national authorities on strategic and environmental impact assessment for small HPPs.