Low-carbon hydropower capacity is vital to faster integration of wind and solar installations, but growth will slow by 23% this decade unless governments change their policies and make sufficient investments, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a statement released to the public. Wednesday.
“Hydropower is a forgotten clean electricity giant and needs to be re-added to the energy and climate agenda if countries are serious about achieving their clean zero targets,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.
The Paris agency said that in addition to generating massive amounts of low-carbon electricity, many hydropower plants can scale up and down very quickly, allowing for more intermittent wind and solar power generation to be integrated.
But new hydropower projects often face long lead times, lengthy permitting procedures, high costs and risks from environmental assessments, and opposition from local communities, the IEA said in a statement.
In 2020, hydropower provided one-sixth of global electricity production, more than all other renewables combined, meeting most of the electricity demand in 28 emerging and developing countries with a population of 800 million.
World hydropower capacity is expected to increase by 17% or 230 gigawatts (GW) between 2021 and 2030, led by China, India, Turkey and Ethiopia, but this is almost 25% slower than the previous growth decade.
According to the IEA, about half of the economically viable potential of hydropower worldwide remains untapped, especially in emerging and developing economies.
Policymakers need to remove barriers and establish robust sustainability standards for projects to be economically viable and generate investor interest. This could unlock existing projects and potentially increase capacity by 40% until 2030, the agency said.