Looking forward to hydropower’s future

David Appleyard
Chief Editor

The turning of the year always invites both a retrospective and consideration of the future. A look at what the recent past can tell us about 2014 certainly suggests that we’re heading for a year of successful development.

Indeed, according to the World Energy Council’s (WEC) latest World Energy Resources report, hydropower already provides a substantial proportion of energy worldwide, contributing about 15% of global electricity production. Some estimates even put this figure as high as 20%. Whatever the absolute figure, there is no doubt that for several countries – for example Brazil, Austria, Uganda and Nepal – hydropower already accounts for well over half of all electricity generation.

In terms of capacity, the WEC analysis declares the top five largest hydropower markets as Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and the USA. Taking Brazil as an example, new figures published by its Electricity Trading Chamber (CCEE) reveal that hydropower produced 76.33% of the country’s electricity during November 2013. Furthermore, Brazil’s saw an increase of 8.4% in hydropower production between November 2012 and the corresponding month of 2013, seeing installed capacity jump from around 41,500 MW to nearly 45,000 MW.

WEC also reports that total global installed hydropower capacity increased by 55% over the past two decades, while hydropower installations have seen growth of some 8% from 2009 to 2012.

Supporting these growth figures, the latest analysis available from the International Hydropower Association reveals some 30 GW of new hydropower capacity was commissioned in 2012, including about 2 GW of pumped storage.

Looking ahead, a recent report from GlobalData finds worldwide cumulative installed hydropower capacity is expected to increase from 1,065 GW in 2012 to 1,407 GW in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 3.5%. Over the same period, investment in hydropower is expected to reach some US$75 billion.

GlobalData forecasts that by 2020 1,052 GW will come from large hydro, with 215 GW of pumped storage and a further 140 GW of small hydropower.

Overall, says the report, the hydropower market is a lucrative area for investment, with a less risky portfolio than other renewables.

Clearly, this scale of development and the suggested future outlook indicates significant investment, though not just in hydropower assets.

For example, there is clear evidence of investment in regional transmission and distribution, vital in much of the developing world. This kind of investment gives large hydropower projects access to bigger markets, and it also provides much needed regional power system stability.

It seems then that the increasing demand for secure supplies of both power and water has placed hydropower at a nexus of international collaboration. For 2014, there’s evidently a lot to look forward to.

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