Technology Roadmap: Hydropower
Release Date: 29 October 2012
Hydropower could double its contribution by 2050, reaching 2,000 GW of global capacity and over 7,000 TWh. This achievement, driven primarily by the quest of clean electricity, could prevent annual emissions of up to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil-fuel plants. The bulk of this growth would come from large plants in emerging economies and developing countries.
Hydroelectricity’s many advantages include reliability, proven technology, large storage capacity, and very low operating and maintenance costs. Hydropower is highly flexible, a precious asset for electricity network operators, especially given rapid expansion of variable generation from other renewable energy technologies such as wind power and photovoltaics. Many hydropower plants also provide flood control, irrigation, navigation and freshwater supply.
The technology roadmap for Hydropower details action needed from policy makers to allow hydroelectric production to double, and addresses necessary conditions, including resolving environmental issues and gaining public acceptance.
- Hydroelectricity presents several advantages over most other sources of electrical power, including a high level of reliability, proven technology, high efficiency, very low operating and maintenance costs, flexibility and large storage capacity.
- Hydropower is the major renewable electricity generation technology worldwide and will remain so for a long time. Since 2005, new capacity additions in hydropower have generated more electricity than all other renewables combined.
- The potential for additional hydropower remains considerable, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This roadmap foresees, by 2050, a doubling of global capacity up to almost 2 000 GW and of global electricity generation over 7 000 TWh. Pumped storage hydropower capacities would be multiplied by a factor of 3 to 5.
- Most of the growth in hydroelectricity generation will come from large projects in emerging economies and developing countries. In these countries, large and small hydropower projects can improve access to modern energy services and alleviate poverty, and foster social and economic development, especially for local communities. In industrialised countries, upgrading or redevelopment of existing plants can deliver additional benefits.
- Hydropower reservoirs can also regulate water flows for freshwater supply, flood control, irrigation, navigation services and recreation. Regulation of water flow may be important to climate change adaptation.
- Both reservoir and pumped storage hydropower are flexible sources of electricity that can help system operators handle the variability of other renewable energy such as wind power and photovoltaic electricity.
- In order to achieve its considerable potential for increasing energy security while reducing reliance on electricity from fossil fuels, hydropower must overcome barriers relative to policy, environment, public acceptance, market design and financial challenges.
- Large or small, associated with a reservoir or run-of-river, hydropower projects must be designed and operated to mitigate or compensate impacts on the environment and local populations. The hydropower industry has developed a variety of tools, guidelines and protocols to help developers and operators address the environmental and social issues in a satisfactory manner.
- New turbines and design make modern hydropower plants more sustainable and environmentally friendly; better management helps avoid damage to downstream ecosystems.
- Hydropower projects require very substantial up-front investment, which can range up to tens of billion USD. Although hydropower is the least-cost renewable electricity technology and is usually competitive with all alternatives, financing remains a key issue. This roadmap calls for innovative financing schemes and market design reforms to ensure adequate long-term revenue flows and alleviate risks for investors.