Digitalizing hydropower

© 2019 EPFL

© 2019 EPFL

With increasing levels of variable renewables in the energy system, new opportunities emerge for hydropower as a provider of flexibility services in modern power markets. To address this question, EPFL is leading a consortium of 18 Swiss and European partners collaborating within the frame of the XFLEX project (Hydropower Extending Power System Flexibility). This project has received € 15 million funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 857832.


By 2030, the EU is targeting at least 32% energy from renewables and longer-term scenarios call for an even more drastic decarbonisation, with significant contributions from variable wind and solar energy in the European system. The ultimate objective of the XFLEX project is to increase the hydropower potential in terms of plant efficiency, availability and provision of flexibility services to the Electric Power System (EPS). Hydroelectric Power Plants (HPP) already significantly contribute to the EPS flexibility in terms of regulation capability, fast frequency control, fast start/stop, fast generating to pumping modes transition, high ramping rate, inertia emulation, fault ride through capacity, and more. XFLEX aims at demonstrating an innovative methodology for system integration of hydroelectric technology solutions, variable speed being a key component and a reference, to provide further enhanced flexibility services assessed by a crosscutting analysis of their impact on both the technology and the market aspects. Innovative solutions also target an optimized maintenance plan to decrease the outage time and increase the availability of the plant.

XFLEX at EPFL

Besides the overall project coordination, EPFL’s contribution to XFLEX involves the laboratories led by Profs. Avellan, Paolone and Dujic. Other Swiss contributors include Andritz Hydro AG, ALPIQ AG, Power Vision Engineering Sàrl and the Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse occidentale HES-SO.