Analysis and News

Hydropower: A Renewable Energy Goliath

BY ARMCORE VPI's Analyst: Govindra Raghubansi

Hydroelectricity generation is a key energy source towards a global sustainable economy. Hydropower refers to capturing the energy in flowing or falling water and converting it into electricity. It accounted for one-sixth of worldwide electricity output in 2020 and is the single greatest source of low-carbon energy.

The energy source is a mature renewable option to fuel the emerging economies. China generates more than half of all hydro energy due to their massive infrastructure projects. As of 2020, the total installed capacity is 356.4 GW. The Wudongde and Baihetan projects are the two largest hydropower plants in the world followed by Brazil and the USA with 109.1 GW and 102.8 GW respectively.

Over 2020-2030, 127 billion USD or over a quarter of global hydropower investment will be spent on upgrading ageing facilities, largely in industrialised economies. The continual interest to achieve net-zero by both developed and developing countries shows the importance of finance in mobilising funds to pursue such projects and the role of the Green Finance Fund.

To harness hydropower, dams, reservoirs and electric plants must be constructed; the associated infrastructural spending is another source of economic stimuli for countries. Hydroelectric generation and related activities must be carefully planned and implemented. There are environmental and societal risks, such as degraded wildlife habitat, deteriorated water quality, and reduced river recreational benefits. Land usage and housing may also be impacted. However strategic planning and mitigation strategies reduce these impacts on nearby communities and the environment.

The first commercial hydroelectric power station in Niagara Falls began generating electricity in 1879. The city of Niagara Falls began using hydroelectricity to power its street lights two years later. In the Caribbean region, hydroelectric plants can currently be found on the islands of Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Dominica.

Guyana has a history of hydro projects such as the Hosororo Hydropower facility, Tumatumari Hydropower Station and Moco-Moco Hydropower Station. These projects are all defunct and were small scaled. Major proposed Investments in hydroelectricity include Kumu Hydropower Project, Ikuribisi Hydropower Project and Amaila Falls Hydropower Project.

Hydropower is the most mature, reliable and cost-effective renewable power generation technology that is commercially viable. Investments by countries will surely aid in reaching the Paris Agreement.



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