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Global hydropower capacity takes 7 year leap

Research commissioned and published by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) has shown an additional 34GW was added through new projects in the past year. 

aerial photography of body of water

China led on growth, with 75% of additional capacity built to fuel the world’s second largest economy. Elsewhere, India, Pakistan, and Colombia also made significant contributions, while across Europe 3GW of additional hydropower accounts for more than has been added to North and South America respectively. 

Overall, the sector has grown by more than at any point since 2016, with the new projects including 10GW of pumped storage. In total, the renewable source now makes up 15% of the planet’s electricity supply, a figure set to grow quickly as 590GW of projects are currently still in development.

While this sounds impressive, as the IHA reports in its World Hydropower Outlook, even when all planned facilities come online there will still a supply deficit of more than 700GW to overcome if 2050 net zero targets are to be met. This is roughly the total electricity output of Japan and India combined.

The Outlook has been released as a precursor to the IHA’s biennial World Hydropower Congress. This year the event runs from 31st October to 2nd November on Bali, Indonesia, with more than 1,000 decision makers, technology innovators, local, regional and national leaders expected to attend. 

‘Sustainable hydropower is a clean, green, modern and affordable solution to climate change. But the market won’t deliver sufficient hydropower capacity alone. As outlined in the report, it is imperative that we incentivise sustainable hydropower development through financial and market mechanisms that reward flexibility, accelerate the development of renewables through streamlined permitting and licensing and embed hydropower sustainability practices in government regulation,’ said Eddie Rich, CEO of IHA.

‘IHA calculated the required financial investment to meet net zero targets as US$100 billion a year. However, current investment levels are roughly half this figure. Governments need to assess their broad energy needs including long-term storage and create financial mechanisms that incentivise investment in hydropower, as we’ve seen with the US’s IRA and the EU’s Green Deal,’ added Malcolm Turnbull, former Prime Minister of Australia. ‘While the numbers are at last moving in the right direction, there needs to be a greater push to meet global targets.’

More on hydropower: 

Hydropower systems can cause water conflict if unbalanced

260,000 km of rivers could be impacted by hydro dams

The benefits of hydropower

Image: Dan Meyers

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