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Global Hydropower Set To Exceed $75 Billion Through To 2020

A new report published by analyst firm GlobalData has predicted that global cumulative hydropower installed capacity is expected to increase from 1,064 GW last year to 1,407 GW in 2020, and reach total investment of $75 billion.

Published earlier this week, the report — Hydropower (Large Hydro, Small Hydro and Pumped Storage), 2013 Update – Global Market Size, Competitive Landscape, Regulations and Investment Analysis to 2020 – explains that “small hydropower is one of the most widely used renewable resources in the world for the generation of clean power” but that the “global hydropower market” is “expected to continue its growth path with a major contribution from large hydro.”

“Hydropower is receiving enormous support from various governments around the world in the form of favorable policies and incentives,” the authors of the report note. “Of all of the renewable energy sources, hydropower is one of the most widely used, as it is inexpensive and is well established.”

Currently, hydropower accounts for approximately 20% of total installed renewable energy capacity (as of 2012), thanks to steady growth, as seen in the global increase from 858 GW in 2006 to 2012 levels of 1,065 GW.

In fact, according to GlobalData, “more than 60 countries use hydropower to meet more than half of their electricity needs.”

Current and Expected Growth

The report outlined the current distribution of global hydropower: The Asia-Pacific region currently accounts for 41% of all installed capacity, followed by Europe with 25%, North America with 19%, South and Central America with 12%, and the Middle East and Africa with 3%.

Given their current lead, then, it is unsurprising that the Asia-Pacific region is forecast to lead the installation of hydropower over the forecast period, with an expected 208 GW, specifically coming from countries like China, India, and Indonesia.


The European hydropower market is expected to add 271 GW of installed capacity by 2020, while North America looks to install just shy of 200 GW.

This North American surge might benefit from recent legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama in August, which could see 60 GW of small hydropower added to the American grid.

These two bills, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act, will streamline the regulatory process required to add new hydropower generation to existing dams or upgrade existing hydro generation resources, and could unlock the untapped potential of thousands of miles of waterways.

Covering the news, CleanTechnica author Silvio Marcacci also noted that “hydropower may seem to be the under-appreciated stepchild of American electricity generation, but it generates 7% of America’s total electricity, and represents a whopping 56% of all renewables – more than all other clean energy sources combined.”

GlobalData note in their report that the majority of growth experienced by both North America and Europe is likely to come from “the expansion of pumped storage capacity and the modernization and refurbishment of existing plants.”

No matter how it happens though, it would seem that — for North America at least — hydropower is going to be playing a more and more important role in the country’s energy mix.

Current and Expected Investment

Looking back over the growth period between 2006 and 2012 saw an increase in investment from $51 billion to $63 billion, and according to GlobalData, that figure is expected to reach $75 billion by 2020.

GlobalData point to an increase in installations in countries such as China, Brazil, and India as primary boosters of the investment growth, as well as the growth of hydropower in emerging countries throughout the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, South and Central America regions. Criss-crossed by waterways as famous as the Nile, Amazon, Yangtze, and Mekong Rivers, and as unknown as the Brahmaputra, Salween, Zambezi, and Orinoco (although Enya fans may disagree on that last one), it is of no great surprise that emerging countries throughout the stereotyped third-world are looking to renewable energies like small hydropower to help their emerging markets and populations.

GlobalData also note that they believe the “most common policy instruments to promote hydropower are Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), financial incentives, Feed-In Tariffs (FITs), and binding targets for renwable energy.” They also note that “the current hydropower market has developed substantially in recent years with the help of this type of policy support.”

The full report can be found via the link found at the top of this article, where further information pertaining to the growth in investment and installed capacity are further detailed in the full report.

Global Hydropower Set To Exceed $75 Billion Through To 2020 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 other subscribers: RSS | Facebook | Twitter.

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Robert Hargraves's picture
Robert Hargraves on Oct 20, 2013 11:26 am GMT

Hydropower is the world’s largest source of renewable energy — not just 20%, according to IEA,

The headlined price per watt of generatiing capacity seems too good to be true. (1407 – 1064) = 343 GW for only $75, or only $0.21/watt. The Grand Inga Dam project in Africa is projected to cost $2/watt. Natural gas combined cycle generators cost about $1/watt.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Oct 21, 2013 3:17 am GMT

The Earth is endowed with three large, inexhaustible energy sources: solar, wind, and nuclear.  All others (including the historically important hydro and biomass) are now and will always be small; the more we try to rely on these small sources, the more we will increase our footprint on the environment and degrade natural ecosystems. 

It should also be noted that small hydro and run-of-the-river hydro are very seasonal.  They deliver most annual energy during the spring mountain snow-melt and fall rainy season.  These are exactly the times when electricity demand is lowest, and wind energy production is strongest.

As discussed in this paper (Weissbach et al. 2013), pumped hydro storage has such a high construction cost that it completely ruins the EROI of solar and wind power.

From Perez & Perz -2009

[Uranium reserves indicate only low cost reserves used in once-thru cycles.  With breeding and use of dilute uranium and thorium resources, the economical reserves are several orders of magnitude higher.  The solar resource shown is 65% of all sun hitting continents regardless of economics, ecological sensativity, or competing land use; hence realistic yields are at least 2 orders of magnitude lower.  Thanks to Schalk Cloete for finding this image – NWilson.]

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