Hydropower generation could be doubled by 2050: IEA

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The International Energy Agency has focused its generally bullish outlook for global renewables growth on hydropower this week, with the publication of a report suggesting that global hydroelectricity production could double by 2050, preventing annual emissions of up to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil-fuel plants.

The report, Technology Roadmap: Hydropower, released on Monday by the IEA and the Ministry of Mines and Energy of the Federative Republic of Brazil, challenges the notion that the world’s hydroelectric resources have peaked, arguing instead that emerging economies  – with the right policies in place – have significant potential to generate renewable power from large hydro plants.

“Hydroelectricity is a very cost-effective technology already,” IEA deputy executive director Richard Jones said at the launch of the report during the HYDRO 2012 conference in Bilbao. “However, new developments face tough financial challenges. Governments must create a favourable climate for industry investment when designing electricity markets.”

To help foster this “favourable climate,” the report recommended that governments set development plans and targets, ensure developers and operators document their approach to sustainability, include financing for hydro on policy agendas, develop risk-mitigating financial instruments for investors, and adopt a “holistic approach to deployment that takes into account other aspects of water management.”

As the IEA points out, hydropower is already the leading renewable electricity generation technology worldwide – used in 159 countries it provides 16.3 per cent of the world’s electricity, with new capacity additions since 2005 generating more electricity than all other renewables combined.

The report also highlights hydropower’s diversity – from run-of-river to reservoir plants plus pumped-storage – and its advantages, such as “reliability, proven technology, large storage capacity, and very low operating and maintenance costs.” And it notes that many hydropower plants also provide flood control, irrigation, navigation and freshwater supply.  

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  • I’d love to see Hydro double in Australia. There is no doubt it is the best renewable energy source by a country mile! High power generators, built-in storage and, like nuclear, very cheap once you amortise the cost over a very long life.

    Can’t see Ms Milne being too excited about it though.

  • colin

    provided it is integrated with pump storage

  • Peter Bysouth

    We have not exploited our existing hydro capacity. Pump storage would, as Collin suggests, be a desirable double play. But here in Tasmania, despite Bass Link to buy cheap overnight power, the incomplete nature of the hydro system and the “NO DAMS” megaphone diplomacy stops its fulfilment. Elsewhere, President Obama’s first renewable energy Tsar, in her first week in office, called for a report on all US water dam and storage facilities that could have the addition of hydro generation; whether it be big or small. The answer she got was that there were up to 60,000 opportunities that were available to be exploited.

    What is the results of a similar Australian study? How many country towns have a dam or weir that could exploit such a facility. Even if it is only switched on in the evening peak as a supplement to PV etc.

    When the Climate Commission presented at the Hobart Town Hall earlier this year, Prof Tim Flannery had to have it explained to him why the audience was laughing at his suggestion that Tasmania could become the hydro “battery storage” for the NEM. Has it become so bad that no bureaucrat is prepared to suggest a similar hydro potential survey for Australia(?). There is one such micro hydro operating just outside Hobart that was built by a retired Hydro Engineer but that’s about it.