DI Martina Prechtl-Grundnig

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In this discussion of the expert interviews series, a discussion was held with Ms. DI Martina Prechtl-Grundnig, Managing Director of the Verein Kleinwasserkraft Österreich

The association Kleinwasserkraft Österreich represents the interests of the small water power plant (small water power plant operator, planner and supplier industry), is organized as a non-profit association according to the association law and is financed by the contributions of around 1,000 members.

How do you assess the status of small-scale hydropower technology in Austria in international comparison?

When one speaks of small-scale hydroelectric technology, one generally speaks of hydroelectric technology as a whole. This technology is well-developed internationally and has proven itself in Austria for a long time. There are still developments and research projects in this area, but there are no longer any large quantum leaps.

As far as the supply of hydroelectric technology is concerned, Austria is in the top international market. There are some renowned international companies in Austria. Since Austria is a "hydropower country", over the years of application, high know-how has developed in all areas of hydropower. This ranges from the planning to the production of individual components in the supplier industry, such as turbine construction.

How do you assess the current expansion of small water power in Austria?

We have already achieved a high expansion of hydropower in Austria. Nevertheless, I am convinced that there is further potential for further development. It is important to implement projects in harmony with nature and water bodies. The small-scale hydropower Austria is committed to a good state of the waters, as stipulated by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The ecological functionality of the water bodies is not only prescribed by EU legislation but has already been part of Austrian water legislation. This awareness about the ecological aspects is not only a legal issue but also a social one.

I believe that there is still potential for new plant construction, but also in the revitalization of existing plants. This means that existing sites are technically optimized or completely new usage concepts developed at existing locations. Some small-scale hydroelectric power plants, for example, were designed in such a way that they were used in a plant for the direct drive of machines. Here, there are ways to make better use of the water supply at the site with a whole new concept.

A potential assessment carried out in the course of the Austrian energy strategy comes to the conclusion that there is a potential for expansion of electricity from small hydro power plants of 2.5 TWh. 0.7 - 1 TWh come from the revitalization or reactivation of existing sites.

In general, however, I see flat discussions about the expansion potential very critical, since this always depends on many influencing factors. On the one hand, the technically feasible potential is of importance, on the other hand, the potential exploitation potential, which is justifiable from an environmental point of view, plays an important role in the discussion, but also social, social or political factors influence the usable hydropower potential. As a result, potentials are changing over time and society.

How do you assess the legal situation in the area of small water power?

The legal situation is certainly in recent years with the implementation of the WFD(c) istockphoto/Yuliyan Velchev more complicated. There are a variety of legal frameworks that have been created. In some cases, however, the existing legal frameworks are not sufficient and situations must be judged on the spot and decisions taken. Legislative guidelines and guidelines therefore provide a certain framework, but one can not rely exclusively on it. It also always needs an individual site-specific view and the courage to make decisions.

In your opinion, what is the importance of small water power in the Austrian population?

According to surveys, Austrians are of the opinion that hydropower (small and large hydropower are hardly differentiated by the population) is a good alternative in the area of electricity generation. Thus the nuclear power is strongly rejected and the hydropower is considered the better option. Surveys also showed that the population still sees a potential for development and believes that this should also be used. In the survey, we also specifically asked about the possible disadvantages of generating electricity from hydropower. It was mentioned that a possible disadvantage could be the intrusion into nature, and that in project implementation it should be ensured that this is kept as low as possible. But, in many cases, it has also been added that the advantages of hydroelectric power are far superior to the disadvantages.

How intensively is small-scale hydropower in Austria currently being expanded?

There has been a continuous increase in small-scale hydroelectric power generation in recent years, which is an increase not only due to the realization of new projects, but also through revitalization measures. However, this increase in production is not as dynamic as in the wind sector or as in photovoltaics. We expect this upward trend to continue in the future. Slow but steady. From the feedback of our members, I see above all that by changing the eco-electricity system, which gives the possibility to tariff promotion for small hydroelectric power plants, more dynamics can be seen again in the area of power plant revitalization.

What are the main challenges in the implementation of small hydropower projects?

(c) istockphoto/Tim PohlThis question can not be answered altogether. Often, of course, there are lengthy and difficult licensing procedures. Sometimes there are projects in which the technical challenges prevail, for example due to special location conditions. The ecological environment puts in manye Is a challenge. This is different on a case-by-case basis. Further, social acceptance is an essential factor, so the social component is to be included in every project realization. Of course, economic questions play a decisive role, and these are often closely related to technical and ecological questions.

In your opinion, where do you see the greatest potential for small-scale hydropower use in the future? In which areas are there research and development potentials?

A major issue is the energetic use of existing cross structures, which have not yet been used for electricity production. Pumps storage will also become an issue in the small performance range. These issues are also linked to technological challenges.

A further development topic is the combination of multifunctional systems, ie systems that are not primarily used to generate energy with energy generation. This is already partly done in drinking water or sewage.

In the area of small-scale hydropower, universities and companies are the most important research facilities. In many cases there is an intensive cooperation between these players.

Are innovations to be expected in the area of small water power over the next few years?

It is not to be expected that completely new technologies will be developed to replace existing concepts. Nevertheless, there are always interesting new developments in the small water power industry. There are also innovations in the context of ecological accompanying measures - such as the development of a fish-climbing auger, which ensures a continuity of the water bodies for fishes and at the same time electricity can be produced.

What challenges do you see in the future of small hydropower in Austria?

The biggest challenge will surely lie in the implementation of the WFD, which is an intervention in existing water rights. These are investments that have been established under other legal conditions and have made their economic calculations under these conditions. These must be adapted to new requirements. This means, among other things, subsequent investments or losses in energy production, for example by an increase in residual water doping.

The task of the "Kleinwasserkraft Österreich" association is to secure the stock of plants and the electricity production. A goal for the association in the next few years is therefore to accompany this upheaval, so that there is no endangering of our members.

How do you think Austrian companies are positioned in the entire range of environmental technologies, apart from hydropower?

Austria has succeeded in establishing itself internationally in this sector. There is no dispute that Austria is a flagship in the field of environmental technology. However, Austria must make sure that image and reality do not interfere. Partially you can not escape this impression.

What is necessary for an Austrian company to take a leading position in the environmental technology sector?

The domestic market plays a very important role, as successful export is based on a good market. Outsourcing of production sites is problematic, since innovative development can take place where production is concerned.


DI Martina Prechtl-Grundnig

DI Martina Prechtl-Grundnig (c) Kleinwasserkraft Österreich

2001: Absolvierung des Studiums der Landschaftsplanung und Landschaftspflege an der Universität für Bodenkultur Wien 

Dachverband der Absolventenverbände der niederösterreichischen landwirtschaftlichen Schulen

2002 - 2007: Geschäftsführerin des Energieparks Bruck an der Leitha

2007: Abschluss des postgradualen, berufsbegleitenden "MSc Program - Renewable Energy in Central and Eastern Europe“ an der Technischen Universität Wien.

seit 2007: Geschäftsführung Kleinwasserkraft Österreich