HydroVision: Waterpower community sees new opportunities

Opportunities abound for the global hydropower industry to meet demand for carbon-free renewable power, to fulfill water supply needs, and to provide security against droughts and flooding, the feared results of global warming.

That was the message July 16 to more than 2,400 delegates to HydroVision 2008, a biannual conference of hydropower developers, suppliers, builders, and regulators. Delegates came from 65 countries to the week-long conference and exhibition at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Fears of climate change have created a new scenario for the hydro industry, whose many benefits — carbon-free renewable power, water supply, irrigation, flood protection, and navigation — are being more readily recognized by the public. Leslie Eden, president of conference organizer HCI Publications, said, these days, the �hydropower industry� can more appropriately be described as the �waterpower community.�

Eden said hydropower projects are proceeding at an unprecedented pace, but with greater scrutiny than in the past. �Sustainable development� has become a new standard for developers and regulators to ensure environmental, resettlement, and community issues are appropriately addressed by prospective projects.

The HydroVision conference dedicated a week-long meeting track to ocean, tidal, and in-stream technologies, reflecting an emphasis on new technologies being designed to extract clean energies from moving water. It devoted another track to water resources and the related community and stakeholder concerns.

Speaker: Hydro industry must make change happen

Keynote speaker David Victor, a law professor and director of the Stanford University Energy and Sustainable Development Program, said the hydro industry not only must anticipate change, but must make change happen.

He said hydropower is the backbone of electrification, just as electrification is the backbone of world economic development. He singled out small hydropower as an extraordinary development, bringing electricity to 3 billion people since 1970.

Victor said hydro has �enormous potential� to triple world installed capacity, but questioned whether that potential will be tapped. He said the hydro industry is not as well-organized politically as other energy sectors including other renewables, nuclear power, and even coal.

He said the global push to combat climate change is not bringing as much benefit to hydropower as might be expected for an established clean, renewable energy source that also can provide water storage against warming-induced droughts and even flooding.

The professor said there is an �extraordinary political revolution in energy,� that �rules matter,� and that the industry must work harder to ensure its place at the table as climate change rules are drafted.

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