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River systems under peaked stress

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Environmental Research Letters
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The change in the global energy production mix towards variable renewable energy sources requires efficient utilization of regulated rivers to optimise hydropower operations meet the needs of a changing energy market. However, the flexible operation of hydropower plants causes non-natural, sub-daily fluctuating flows in the receiving water bodies, often referred to as 'hydropeaking'. Drastic changes in sub-daily flow regimes undermine attempts to improve river system health. Environmental decision makers, including permitting authorities and river basin managers facing the intense and increasing pressure on river environments, should consider ecosystem services and biodiversity issues more thoroughly. The need for research innovations in hydropeaking operation design to fulfil both the water and energy security responsibilities of hydropower is highlighted. Our paper outlines optimized hydropeaking design as a future research direction to help researchers, managers, and decision-makers prioritize actions that could enable better integration of river science and energy system planning. The goal of this is to find a balanced hydropower operation strategy.