Tracking Clean Energy Progress

More efforts needed

Hydropower generation increased by an estimated 0.5% in 2017. However, capacity growth declined for a fourth consecutive year since 2013. To reach its SDS target, hydropower generation would need to grow by almost 40% in order to reach more than 5800 TWh by 2030.

Hydropower generation

Historical development and targets

	Historical	Forecast	SDS Targets
2000	2699.99		
2001	2641.60		
2002	2711.41		
2003	2726.15		
2004	2896.78		
2005	3019.03		
2006	3128.60		
2007	3167.13		
2008	3290.47		
2009	3341.49		
2010	3531.13		
2011	3600.12		
2012	3758.02		
2013	3888.97		
2014	3994.67		
2015	3978.00		
2016	4143.88		
2017	4226.88		
2018		4346.05	
2019		4435.42	
2020		4498.87	
2021		4554.87	
2022		4608.40	
2025			5105.57
2030			5848.40
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Hydropower additions are estimated to have decreased from 43 GW in 2013 to 25 GW in 2017, with fewer projects becoming operational in China (12 GW), Brazil (3.5 GW), as well as in Africa and South East Asia.

Hydropower annual capacity additions

In 2017, hydropower capacity additions fell for the fourth consecutive year.

	2015	2016	2017
China	24	15	13
United States	0.1	0.6	0.1
India	2	0.5	1.8
Brazil	2.5	5.3	3.4
Japan	0.4	0.1	-0.1
EU	2.1	1.5	1.1
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Investment associated with the hydropower coming online in 2017 fell by 30% to its lowest level in over a decade, due to the slowdown of new additions in China, Brazil and in Southeast Asia. Final investment decisions for hydropower plants to be built in the future accelerated in 2017 to over 35 GW. But this rebound is not enough to put hydropower on track to meet long-term goals.

Tracking progress

Hydropower, the largest renewable electricity technology by capacity, is not fully on track to reach its SDS target. To be on track to reach its SDS target, hydropower would need to grow by 3% per annum until 2030. Instead, capacity additions have been slowing down. This trend is expected to continue because of lower expectations for growth in China and Brazil.

In China, there are fewer large hydropower projects in the pipeline because of concerns about social and environmental impacts and overcapacity, amid expectations of slower growth in power demand. Curtailment also remains a key concern.

In Brazil, macroeconomic challenges are expected to lead to sluggish electricity demand, decreasing growth expectations and the number of projects in the pipeline.

Hydropower capacity is expected to accelerate in Africa and Southeast Asia, but this growth will not be large enough to compensate for slower expansion in China and Brazil.


The IEA’s new Innovation Tracking Framework identifies key long-term “technology innovation gaps” across the energy mix that need to be filled in order to meet long-term clean energy transition goals. Each innovation gap highlights where R&D investment and other efforts need improvement.

Explore the technology innovation gaps identified for hydropower below:

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Hydropower sees a two-fold growth in the SDS, but its potential is highly constrained by geography and robust planning.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Designing, testing, and validating new ways to improve sustainability and reduce the environmental effects of hydropower generation on fish populations and ecosystems.

Key initiatives

Future hydropower Program from Statkraft covers energy management, sustainability and pre engineering/engineering phases.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

In the SDS, hydropower will be increasingly called upon to provide flexibility to accommodate changes in both supply and demand.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Quantify the value of services that support the resilience of the electric grid.

Key initiatives

Canadian Emerging Hydropower Technology Strategy; Asset Management improvement at ORNL.

Explore all 100+ innovation gaps across 38 key technologies and sectors here.

🕐 Last updated Friday, 14 December 2018