The annual conference of Eurelectric, the European sector association  over 30 members, was held in the Cankarjev Dom conference centre in Ljubljana on 4 and 5 June. The main topics of the conference, which was hosted by Slovenia for the first time and entitled Watt’s Next? New Players, Products and Peers, dealt with the impact of new players and products on the future of the electric power sector in Europe and globally. The conference addressed the question of the potential for energy of the increasing use of digital platforms; how and what objectives to set in the field of sustainable development and how to realise them; how quickly the low-carbon transition in the electric power sector will facilitate the decarbonisation of other sectors, especially transport; and how power companies will encourage the active involvement of users and strengthen relations with them. In the conference programme, the organisers also placed an emphasis on innovation and new business models, which are unavoidable during this time of thorough change that the sector faces.

The conference, which was attended by around 460 delegates, also featured representatives of HSE. Matjaž Marovt, the director general of the company, participated on Monday, 4 June, in a panel entitled Thermal & Pumped Storage Solutions, the Unknown and Undervalued Flexibility Diamonds. In the discussion, which also featured representatives of the companies Siemens Gamesa, Verbund, SmartEn and Sonnen, he talked about the advantages and challenges of pumped-storage hydro power plants. According to Marovt, pumped-storage hydro power plants will also be of key importance for electricity storage in the future. It is a modern, verified, flexible and cost-effective technology with a large installed capacity and high rates of efficiency, good responsiveness and an environmental pollution rate of almost zero. One of the main challenges faced at the moment by European power companies intending to build new pumped-storage hydro power plants is their economic feasibility. »The HSE Group also has plans in the field of pumped-storage hydro power plants and storage of electricity in general,« added Marovt, who believes that the dilemmas regarding adequate business models will be resolved and that the HSE Group will be able to implement its plans in this field. There are also challenges and opportunities in the rapid development of batteries, not as a rival industry, but as a technology complementary to pumped-storage hydro power plants.

On Tuesday, 5 June, the director general of HSE addressed the participants of the conference before they left for a visit to the Brežice Hydro Power Plant. He presented the basic information about the Slovenian hydro power sector and Slovenia’s objectives in the field of decarbonisation. »I believe that the best way for our country to achieve the ambitious goal of a 47.4% share of renewable energy in the total energy consumption by 2030 is to build new large hydro power plants. Projections show that we could have a total of 1,303 MW in installed capacity in the field of hydro power production by 2030,« he said, stressing that hydro power had an important role in energy transition in Slovenia. Marovt believes that what is needed in order to improve the competitiveness of hydro power plants not only in Slovenia, but elsewhere in Europe, is a stable regulatory environment, the agreement and acceptance of the wider public regarding the advantages and multi-functionality of hydro power projects for society, and harmonisation of the objectives in renewable energy sources and environmental objectives.

»I strongly believe that the production of hydro power has a bright future,« said Marovt, concluding that »among all renewable sources of energy, it has the most important role, as it is reliable, efficient and friendly to the atmosphere and the environment, while it also ensures reliability of supply and is of key importance for the stability of the power system.«