Faisal Bin Ashraf

and 5 more

Optimising hydropower operations to balance economic profitability and support functioning ecosystem services is integral to river management policy. In this article, we propose a multi-objective optimization framework for small hydropower plants (SHPs) to evaluate trade-offs among environmental flow scenarios. Specifically, we examine the balance between short-term losses in hydropower generation and the potential for compensatory benefits in the form of revenue from recreational ecosystem services, irrespective of the direct beneficiary. Our framework integrates a fish habitat model, a hydropower optimization model, and a recreational ecosystem service model to evaluate each environmental flow scenario. The optimisation process gives three outflow release scenarios, informed by previous streamflow realisations (dam inflow), and designed environmental flow constraints. The framework is applied and tested for the river Kuusinkijoki in North-eastern Finland, which is a habitat for migratory brown trout and grayling populations. We show that the revenue loss due to the environmental flow constraints arises through a reduction in revenue per generated energy unit and through a reduction in turbine efficiency. Additionally, the simulation results reveal that all the designed environmental flow constraints cannot be met simultaneously. Under the environmental flow scenario with both minimum flow and flow ramping rate constraints, the annual hydropower revenue decreases by 16.5%. An annual increase of 8% in recreational fishing visits offsets the revenue loss. The developed framework provides knowledge of the costs and benefits of hydropower environmental flow constraints and guides the prioritizing process of environmental measures.