IRENA Members Back New Blueprint for Hydropower Advancement

“Investment in hydropower needs to grow five-fold from 2018 levels to achieve the Paris Agreement goals,” said IRENA Deputy Director-General Gauri Singh at the fourth meeting of the Collaborative Framework on Hydropower.

Co-facilitated by Costa Rica, the meeting drew interest from more than 60 participants from 35 Members and States in Accession to discuss critical challenges and potential solutions pertaining to the advancement of sustainable hydropower globally.

“Our recently released World Energy Transitions Outlook (WETO) suggests that to meet the climate goals, hydropower installed capacity, including pumped storage, should more than double by 2050 from 1.3 TW to 2.9 TW,” Ms. Singh said. WETO estimates necessary investments in conventional hydropower to be around USD 85 billion per year.

IRENA has been working on a special report on hydropower, outlining the main challenges in closing the gap in the global hydropower capacity and priority areas for action. Presenting crucial findings from the draft report, Roland Roesch from IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre, said most existing plants are reaching the end of their useful lives and face operational and financial consequences.

Rather than retirement, opportunities abound to upgrade these aging facilities with current technology and boost operational efficiencies. “Most hydropower plants were planned, designed and built to operate under different conditions than those of today and need substantial refurbishment and modernisation in a way that they fit the needs of today’s power systems,” Roesch said.

For new hydropower projects, Roesch suggested it’s important to minimise the negative social and environmental impact of the plants without compromising their ability to generate electricity and provide ancillary and water services. “Environmental impacts are unavoidable, but they can be minimised or offset by additional benefits brought by modern technologies,” he added.

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is one of the most-common and well-established types of energy storage technologies and currently accounts for 90% of all utility-scale energy storage capacity and provides flexibility to power systems globally. Rebecca Ellis, Policy Manager, International Hydropower Association (IHA), said there is a vital role for PSH in addressing the climate crisis. “But the lack of a strong business case has hindered private sector investment in PSH development,” she added.

Aimed at promoting hydropower development and facilitating investments in the sector, the International Conference on Hydropower Investment in Developing Countries will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 2022. Co-organised by the Government of Switzerland and IRENA, the conference will explore significant funding opportunities in developing countries, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, and Africa. Jean-Christophe Fueeg from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy said, “we plan to zero in on countries that face immense challenges in raising finance to tap into their hydropower potential.”