WWF warning over hydroelectric plants

By Lisa ChapmanThe WWF has warned against the construction of
more hydroelectric plants in Austria as it says the country’s rivers
are in a “dramatic” state.Christoph Walder, the head of the
international environmental group’s campaign “Rivers Full of Life” said
today (Tues): “As long as there is no good analysis of Austria’s
water-power potential, it makes no sense to make predictions about its
future.”The comments came after electricity industry figures
said that water power would be able to supply a tenth of annual
consumption of electricity by 2020.Bernd Lötsch, the general
director of Vienna’s Natural History Museum, added that water power was
overestimated and would not meet most expectations. He said it was of
least use in winter, when energy demand was at its peak.He
warned “we will have no more rivers” if efforts were made to have water
power meet the increase in demand for electricity during the next five
years.WWF – the World Wide Fund For Nature – said its survey of
5,400 kilometres of Austria’s 53 biggest rivers had found 3,700
barriers and 747 hydroelectric plants in them, which meant their
continuity was broken every 1.7 kilometres on average. It said the
situation in the Inn, Mur and Salzach Rivers was particularly bad.The results of the survey will form the basis for the National Water Management Plan to be presented by WWF on 27 October.But
Barbara Schmidt, the general secretary of the Association of Austrian
Electricity Firms (VEÖ), said the WWF’s comments were “fighting
rhetoric”.She said: “We cannot simultaneously discuss a
sustainable energy strategy for Austria in a working group and announce
at a press conference that future hydroelectric plants will have to be
built under police protection after adoption of a national water plan.”She added that phrases such as “rivers’ bodies in concrete coffins” were uncalled for.Schmidt
said sustainable electricity production through water power was
“Austria’s best chance to reduce CO2 emissions and to raise the
percentage of renewable energy through use of domestic resources.”She
claimed a hoped-for seven billion kilowatt hours of additional
electricity to be generated using renewable sources of energy would
“save us 3.1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.”