Rivers under pressure: Interdisciplinary feasibility analysis of sustainable hydropower

Antti Iho, Niko Soininen, Iivo Vehviläinen, Saija Koljonen, Janne Artell, Antti Belinskij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Global biodiversity loss is most severe in freshwaters, particularly in river ecosystems. Hydropower is one of the main culprits. While being promoted as a carbon free source of renewable energy, hydropower disrupts the flow, habitats, and biota of rivers. Environmental policies and programs seek to mitigate the damage hydropower causes. Any policy action aiming at making the utilization of our rivers more sustainable must be ecologically, economically, and legally feasible. We show that the interdisciplinary feasibility of mitigation measures divides existing facilities into three categories (i) large facilities in which biodiversity mitigation measures are needed but electricity generation and balancing the electricity grid should remain as their main focus, (ii) small facilities in which dam removal and full scale river restoration measures can be taken by assisting the facilities to seize operations, preferably just before their next big investments, and (iii) medium facilities where benefits and trade-offs associated with alternative paths should be analyzed case-by-case to determine the most feasible path forward. Policy action is feasible in all three categories but in different ways: requiring fish passes in the case of large facilities, helping remove dams and restoring the rivers in the case of small facilities, and focusing cost–benefit analysis efforts on the non-trivial group of the medium sized facilities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jun 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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