A Contemporary History of Hydropower

4/19/2012

On the occasion of its 65th anniversary, VERBUND is presenting its research project "Hydropower. Electricity. Society. Power plant projects from 1880 in focus" in the form of a book. The main subject is the history of hydropower and electricity supply since the time of the monarchy.

VERBUND, Austria's leading electricity company and one of the leading hydropower producers in Europe, had already laid down certain standards even in the past when dealing with its history. After coming to terms with the issue of forced labourers during power plant construction under the Nazi regime, Professor Oliver Rathkolb, chairman of the Institute for Contemporary History of the University of Vienna and his team researched the historical and social aspects of hydropower utilisation. The timeline ranged from the beginning of electrification during the monarchy to contemporary debates around power plant projects such as Zwentendorf and Hainburg. The result is now available in form of a book.

"Alongside a historical depiction of the history of hydropower, it was also important for us to critically process contemporary history issues that have accompanied us to the present," says Wolfgang Anzengruber, VERBUND CEO, explaining the motives for the project.

On 272 pages, accompanied by numerous hitherto unpublished illustrations, the major economic, social, as well as geopolitical and inner political influences which determine the perception of hydropower plants are reconstructed. The research conducted by Professor Oliver Rathkolb and his team also look beyond the national boundaries of countries and systems and compare the role of hydropower during the National Socialist era and Communism as well as the importance of hydropower during the combat of the economic crisis in the years between World Wars I and II.

Hydropower plant projects in the focus of at-"tension"

A particular focus is placed on the creation of public debate in connection with power plants and hydropower. In this context, the central question as to who influences which public through the media is of paramount importance. Light is also shed on the interests behind these debates surrounding power plants and hydropower, as well as the reasons for society's prevailing opinions, which range from euphoric agreement to acceptance over to rejection.

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