While the speed of social and industrial processes was rapidly increasing, scientists became alarmed by the number of consumed resources. Therefore, these resources must be protected and used wisely to ensure survival and prosperity of contemporary and future generations (National Research Council, 2011). Since 1992, the members of the United Nations, such as the United States and the European Union, have agreed to focus their efforts on sustainable development.
This policy includes several aspects of the application, including protection of “natural capital”; establishment of resource-efficient, low-carbon economy; and care about population’s health and well-being through creating a non-toxic environment (European Commission, 2013). According to Eurostat’s report (2014), the European Union comes close to its goals set in The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. One of the most noticeable changes is an improvement of energy productivity which was increased by 26,2% since 2000 (Eurostat, 2014). Also, the share of renewable energy has increased significantly, and it made up 16% in 2014 (Eurostat, 2014).

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The latter is especially important since traditional sources of energy are non-renewable. These resources include natural gas, oil, coal, crude oil, and uranium, and they will not replenish quickly (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2017a). While society relies on them, there is the risk that the irresponsible consumption of these resources will cause their extinction, leading to the global crisis.

Therefore, it is wiser to use renewable energy generated by infinite sources. These include various kinds of biomass (waste, biogas, biodiesel), hydropower, geothermal energy, solar and wind power (U.S. EIA, 2017b). Their use decreases the demand for fossil fuels and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

This paper discusses the use of hydropower. It is one of the largest sources of renewable energy both in the United States and in the European Union. Hydroelectric power plants use the energy of moving water. Several types of systems use this energy in different ways. For example, the water may flow through penstock, pushing blades in a turbine which makes a generator produce electricity. Run-of-river power plants use the current to press on a turbine, and some stations store water in reservoirs and release it when needed (U.S. EIA, 2017c).

According to DNV GL (2013), hydropower supplied 13% of the total electricity generated in the European Union. Also, it helped to avoid the amount of CO2 which is equivalent to about 15% of total emissions in the EU-28 (DNV GL, 2013). Although hydropower is not likely to have a significant growth in future, it is expected to constitute one-third of all renewable energy produced in EU-28 by 2030 (DNV GL, 2013). In Europe, the major part of hydropower was generated using storage and pumped storage power plants, and the significant part of investments is used to refurbish and increase the efficiency of already existing stations (International Hydropower Association, 2016). Most of the new hydroelectric plants are small and run-of-river (IHA, 2016).

Spain, which has several big rivers, belongs to top five European countries which produce the largest amount of electricity generated by the water energy (IHA, 2016). According to International Hydropower Association (2016), it has 18,561MW of installed hydropower capacity. By 2020, Spain aims to add additional 13,900MW and 8,800MW of pumped storage (IHA, 2016).

Overall, the modern world is aware of the importance of environmental sustainability, and developed countries have set ambitious goals to ensure the well-being of future generations. Sustainable development policy includes many social, environmental, and economic aspects, and the European Union has a successful experience of implementing it. The use of renewable energy, hydropower, in particular, is common among the members of the European Union, and Spain is among the leaders. In future, even more efforts will be made to increase the environmental sustainability and help the humanity to survive.

  • DNV GL. (2013). The hydropower sector’s contribution to a sustainable and prosperous Europe: The main report. Retrieved from https://www.hydropower.org/
  • Eurostat. (2014). Sustainable development in the European Union. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/
  • European Commission. (2013). 7th EAP – the new general Union Environment Action Programme to 2020. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/
  • International Hydropower Association. (2016). Hydropower status report. Retrieved from https://www.hydropower.org/
  • National Research Council. (2011). Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. The National Academic Press, Washington D.C. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2017a). Nonrenewable energy explained. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2017b). Renewable energy explained. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2017c). Hydropower explained. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/