Report: New renewables grow fast; large hydro still big factor

Despite being segregated from “new” renewables including small hydro, large hydropower projects remain the world’s dominant source of renewable electricity, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

REN21’s Renewables 2007 Global Status Report, released to coincide with the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) (HNN 3/7/08), found large hydropower provided 15 percent of the world’s power generation in 2007.

Other renewables, such as small hydropower, wind, biomass, and solar power, provided 3.4 percent of generation, while fossil fuels provided 67 percent and nuclear added 14 percent.

REN21, which was created at a 2004 international renewables conference in Bonn, Germany, defines small hydropower as projects of less than 10 MW, 30 MW, or 50 MW, depending on which country is providing the statistics.

The report said “new” renewables capacity, including small hydro, totaled 240,000 MW in 2007, while large hydro capacity totaled 770,000 MW. Investment in new renewables in 2007 totaled US$71 billion, while investment in large hydropower totaled US$15 billion to US$20 billion.

The report said new renewables grew at rates of 15 to 30 percent annually from 2002 to 2006, while other technologies, including large hydropower, grew at rates from 3 to 5 percent.

“For the power generation sector, large hydropower remains one of the lowest-cost energy technologies, although environmental constraints, resettlement impacts, and the availability of sites have limited further growth in many countries,” the report said. “Large hydro supplied 15 percent of global electricity production in 2006, down from 19 percent a decade ago.”

The report said large hydro grew during 2002-2006 at a global average of 3 percent per year, but less than 1 percent in developed countries. China saw the highest growth, at more than 8 percent per year during the period. China added about 6,000 MW of large hydro, plus 6,000 MW of small hydro in 2006, the report said.

The top five hydro producers in 2006 were China with 14 percent of world production, Canada and Brazil with 12 percent each, the United States with 10 percent, and Russia with 6 percent.

The report said many developing countries continue actively to develop hydro, with small hydro often used in autonomous applications to replace diesel generation or other small-scale power plants in rural locations.

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