Small hydropower plants: Evaluation of the climate protection potential and improvement by smart technologies

HAPPI: Small Hydropower Plants: Assessment of Climate Protection Potential and Improvement by Smart Technologies


Regardless of China’s rapidly advancing economic growth there is a huge demand for additional energy infrastructures in the predominantly agricultural and structurally weak provinces. Due to its typically solid design and stable effective power hydropower utilisation can provide a reliable basic supply of electricity as a regenerative form of energy production with little CO2 emissions. In China in general there is a huge so far untapped hydro energetic potential of decentralised, cluster-controllable and low emission solutions in the form of small hydropower plants. Their use is intended to help to reduce social imbalances.

Due to its high potential the Chinese central government has promoted the construction of small hydropower plants which substitute firewood and fuel as part of a Chinese pilot project since 2003. Ambitious targets were defined for the future and extensive programs set up (e.g. SHSF – Small Hydropower Substituting Fuel: construction of more than 1,000 new small hydro power plants).

At the same time the utilization of hydro power has a major impact on nature and the landscape and therefore on society which has been the subject of controversial debate.

As part of a completed definition project the project partners on site investigated the construction process and the state of planning on the provincial level. Together with Chinese partners the working areas technically improved overall concepts, innovative financing strategies and new, holistic evaluation instruments for a Sino-German research cooperation were identified. This objective classifies the collaborative research project HAPPI (Small Hydropower Plants: Assessment of Climate Protection Potential and Improvement by Smart Technologies as part of the high tech, sustainability and internationalization strategy as well as the funding priority „Sustainable water management of the German federal government.

The project partners see their role in developing improved hydraulic and structural concepts for small hydraulic power plants, which take account of the existing framework conditions and the Chinese requirements, in cooperation with their Chinese partners. HAPPI intends to contribute to the structural development and the reduction of poverty in predominantly agricultural and structurally weak regions by delivering electrification based on decentralised elements in a sustainable manner.

Tailor-made financing strategies are developed for the programmatic realization which are intended to implement the planned project timely and cost efficiently by mobilizing international and private funds.

Within the project the Fraunhofer ISI compiles an innovative, multi criteria approach to precisely capture, measure and evaluate the systemic impacts of the use of hydropower in relation to the individual sites respectively to the hydropower-clusters. This can better direct national planning processes and provide targeted support to administrative approval procedures. The results of the sustainability evaluation can also be a basis to mobilise innovative financial resources.


2013 - 2016

The German federal ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) finances the project within the topic area "International partnerships for sustainable climate protection and environmental technologies and services (CLIENT)".


    Fraunhofer IOSB, Applied Systems Technology Division (AST)


Cooperation of the Fraunhofer Instituts IOSB and ISI with the University of Kassel, four German SMEs and Chinese partner institutions.