33 GW Of New Hydropower Was Commissioned In 2015

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A total of 33 GW of new hydropower capacity was commissioned in 2015, including 2.5 GW of new pumped storage, according to new figures.

Hydropower-2According to new estimates published by the International Hydropower Association earlier this month in its latest briefing, 2016 Key Trends in Hydropower, the world’s total installed hydropower capacity reached 1,211 GW, including 145 GW of pumped storage, thanks to 2015 installation figures of 33 GW and 3.2 GW respectively.

“The latest data shows that the hydropower sector is continuing its strong growth trend across the world,” said Richard Taylor, IHA chief executive. “The new Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate action have emphasized hydropower’s vital role in meeting the world’s energy, water and climate challenges. Through its ability to support clean energy systems and provide multiple water services, hydropower can be the key to realizing the ambitious global targets outlined at COP21.”

The report’s authors noted that key drivers for hydropower’s strong and perpetual growth is a general and global increase in demand “not just for electricity, but also for particular qualities such as reliable, clean, and affordable power.”

As with solar and wind, the leading installer of new hydropower was unsurprisingly China, whose total hydropower capacity reached 320 GW thanks to an increase of 19.4 GW. China isn’t just having an impact on the global hydropower market at home, but is impacting development around the globe. China’s China Three Gorges Corporation became the second-largest private power generator in Brazil following the purchase of concessions to operate two hydropower stations totaling 5 GW. China has also had an impact in Africa, with several projects completed or nearing completion in Ethiopia, Guinea, and Zambia.

Hydropower’s Contribution by Region


There remains significant undeveloped potential across all world regions, specifically in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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27 thoughts on “33 GW Of New Hydropower Was Commissioned In 2015

  • Yeah, hydropower is carbon neutral and cheap, but has other problems. The inland lakes their dams create needs a lot of space, and might mean that whole communities must move and their farmland lost. In places like China and India sometimes whole cities and millions of people are displaced – mostly poor people, who anyway can’t afford connecting to the electricity grid, and thus get no advantages from the development (as in the Narmada riversystem in India)., the power going to the urban middle classes.
    Again, the core issue is whether to build large, centralized power stations or many small ones. Smallscale gives far less problems. We can smallerscale and less intrusively harness energy from a river and then let it fill and follow its course after the powerplant, or we can build a big dam for the river, creating a huge lake and totally change the local ecosystems and weather patterns. Big centralized power plants are better for big corporation profits, but smaller more distributed (but still interconnected) power sources are better for ordinary citizens.

    This is the big political question concerning renewable energy. The old fight between most of us and the few of them is taken into this new context. Technology is never politically neutral

    • Points taken. Nevertheless, there is a natural complementarity between despatchable hydro and the variable wind and solar it backs up. Hydro output has a non-zero opportunity cost, as it is often constrained by river flow or reservoir levels, so grid managers don’t mind putting it behind wind and solar in the merit order. Norway famously acts as the giant hydro battery to Denmark’s wind. Many hydro plants are old and fully amortised, so the owners are much less sensitive to lower capacity factors than those of coal plants.

      There’s a strong presumption that new hydro costs cannot fall and are likely to rise. The technology is mature. Availabledam sites get steadily more remote and environmentally sensitive. Contrast Brazil’s Itaipu from the 1960s and the white elephant Belo Monte dam under construction, hopefully the last such megaproject in the Amazon.

      • I’m living in a country with 99.8% hydroelectric powerplants. No more buildout of this is environmentally and thus politically possible. But a 2000 km long coast gives opportunities for hydroelectric power for export to energy-poor areas on the European Plain down south (Netherlands to Poland). Should be win-win for producers and recipients

        • There is still buildout capacity left in the world. This capacity is Small and Micro hydro. In the US there are thousands of dams that are non-powered and should be. In Northeast US there are thousands of abandoned dams once used to power the Industrial Revolution that aren’t being put back to work because of the suffocating regulatory costs and discriminatory FERC practices. 21st century hydro offers dam-less systems.

          We don’t necessarily need more giant hydro. If you believe that rooftop and community solar PV is worthwhile then consider the contribution of hundreds of thousands of local, high capacity factor Small and Micro hydro. Presently, at least in the US, this resource is wasted.

    • The good of the many always outweighs the good of the few.

  • Thanks. 2.8% capacity growth, year-on-year. Joshua, any idea what the energy (TWh) growth was? It would be useful in an article like this.

    • Thats an intresting point, there was an intresting stastistic that came from Greenpeace that stated that new Hydro produced 54TWH of new generation. The intresting fact in that was that new nuclear outperformed wind and solar combined. Nuclear accounted for 38TWH of new generation and Solar 11TWH and Wind 25 TWH also fossil use went down.

      • Actually, what you are saying is complete BS.

        The world installed 62 GW of wind power last year:
        62 GW of wind power at only 30% capacity factor = 163 TWh
        (One year has still 8760 hours).

        The world installed 54.5 GW of wind power last year:
        54.5 GW of solar power even at only 15% capacity factor = 72 TWh
        (One year has still 8760 hours).

        • Those figures are maximum possible (best case scenario) numbers. In other words, they are straight up bullshit. Everyone knows that if it weren’t for the government subsidies there would be no wind or solar projects (of mention). They have the worst ROI of anything EVER.

        • I just thought of something. Production lags capacity additions. If you put generation up in Dec, you don’t really see it in production till the following year.

          • Yes, that’s correct. However, the capacity additions from December 2014 will also result in a substantial TWh production increase in 2015 (and not show up as capacity additions in 2015).

            More importantly, I’ve meanwhile noticed that the numbers this guy was showing are actually the Chinese numbers and not the numbers of the whole world (which he was implying and I corrected).

    • And the statistic itself

  • Intresting point about new generation came from Greenpeace, it stated stated that new Hydro produced 54TWH of new generation. The intresting
    fact in that was that new nuclear outperformed wind and solar combined.
    Nuclear accounted for 38TWH of new generation and Solar 11TWH and Wind
    25 TWH also fossil use went down. What makes that statistic so compelling is that Greenpeace just shot themselves in the foot by proving that nuclear scales up faster than winf and solar even though they claim the exact opposite.

    • Where? What area is it? Which year? Where is your data source?

    • Kind of funny that they classify nuclear separate from Thermal power. I guess as far as faster, it depends on your definition. There sure is nothing fast about building a nuke. As far as adding more capacity in a given year, I think that is temporary. They are crazy expensive to build. They seem to take years longer and billions more to build than expected. They simply aren’t a good value, or even a not that bad one.

    • There’s something strange about these figures anyway: the sum of the increases, which include demand, don’t add up to the reduction in thermal, and 11 TWh of solar is low compared to China’s quoted increase in installations of 15-17GW. According to the World Nuclear Association, net energy from all nukes in China in 2015 was 158.3TWh, with around 3.6GW added that year, so the 54TWh of new nuke supply is clearly wrong.

      • This is China. The 3,6 GW figure is dead wrong. In 2015 8 new NPP’s were connected to the grid in China with a combined capacity of 7,6 GW . Source IAEA. This also brings me ack to my original point that Greenpeace just proved their argument wrong. Besides China needs all sources if they wish to clean up their production and get rid of emmisions and pollution.

        (610 MW(e), PWR, CHINA) on 7 November

        (1000 MW(e), PWR, CHINA) on 25 October

        (1000 MW(e), PWR, CHINA) on 12 January

        (1000 MW(e), PWR, CHINA) on 6 August

        (1000 MW(e), PWR, CHINA) on 23 March

        (1018 MW(e), PWR, CHINA) on 21 March

        (1000 MW(e), PWR, CHINA) on 10 March

        (1000 MW(e), PWR, CHINA) on 18 October

    • China only. Deceptive. Wind and solar additions from the graph 36 TWh. All renewables 90 TWh. Nuclear only 38 TWh.

  • So according to the graphic above, hydro in the right bit of Asia which includes China is run at an average of 36% capacity, Europe’s at 33%, North America’s at 39%, and South America’s at 51%. The left bit of Asia which Includes India runs at 31%. Since I’ve read elsewhere than India’s hydro operates at about 60% of capacity, either there are a lot of dams in that region that operate at very low capacity factors indeed to account for that, or something is screwed up. Quite possibly the 60% capacity figure for Indian hydro, since that is quite high.

    • Can these numbers be low because hydro could be used for both baseload or peak demand generation ?

      • Well, hydro is just so darn useful in that it can be quickly ramped up when demand increases and used to fill in gaps left by inflexible generators such as coal and nuclear or intermittent generators such as wind and solar. For this reason hydro is run at a low capacity factor. Dams are build with large turbines that can provide power when needed, but they generally only run them when the power is most useful. If the price of electricity is temporarily low the water will be conserved for when the price is higher. Australia, being dominated by fairly inflexible coal generators runs its hydro dams at very low capacity, maybe only 25%, and saves the water for peak demand and for providing ancillary services such as making sure there are no sudden short falls in electricity supply. While in South America they have a lot of hydro power and can afford to run it at a higher capacity factor.

        But the figures are just for 2015 and could be influenced by high or low rainfall in a region.

        • A lot of the dams have a control dam downstream that lets them meet peak demand while storing the water in the downstream control dam. The control dam will allow the hydro plants to meet the river flow and reservoir constraints. I think there are a number of sites where they use a “pump-back” set-up to act as pumped-storage hydro plant. A good number of existing hydro plant sites should suitable for pump-back scheme and can be used to increase pumped-storage hydro capacity. This will also increase the utilization of hydro plants.

          • Perhaps dams that are not currently considered suitable for pumped storage could support very small lower reservoirs. Even the ability to hold one hour’s worth of water released when the dam is operating at full output could be very useful. Of course, whether or not tricking out existing dams with small amounts of pumped storage will be worth it will depend on local grid conditions and the costs of alternatives.

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