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Future of Hydroelectric Power: Hydropower Energy Forecast for 2023

Hydroelectric Power - Hydropower Energy Forecast for 2023

The Paris Agreement, signed by 196 parties in the UN (now 194), sets a net-zero emissions target for 2050. The Agreement was signed in 2015, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and keep the temperature rise below 1.5 °C meanwhile. 


Amid environmental concerns about sustainability, hydropower energy emerges as a clean, renewable and safe source of electricity. In this article, we’ll talk about the future of hydroelectric power worldwide.



What Is Hydropower Energy, and How Does It Work?

Hydropower is a renewable kind of energy generation, where energy is harnessed with flowing water through turbines. When water moves the turbines, it generates kinetic energy, which is later converted into electricity. There’s no loss of water in this process, and more importantly, the water comes out of this system as clean as it got into it. 


This kind of technology has been used for nearly 150 years, and it was the first technology for generating electricity on a large scale. Since 1878, several technological improvements have been made to hydropower, one of the most used technologies for energy generation. 


A quick search for “hydropower renewable energy” will bring several articles, reports and case studies, supporting hydropower energy renewable sources as the way forward. 


Fossil fuels are losing ground, in a world with increasing energetic demands, but also an increasingly damaged environment. There are mainly three types of hydroelectric power, as explained below.



Impoundment power plants are arguably the most common kind of hydropower generation. In these large structures, river water is kept in reservoirs and then released, which flows through a turbine, generating kinetic power.



A diversion power plant channels part of the river flow through a penstock or canal. This kind of facility rarely requires a dam, although some impoundment might be necessary, in some cases.


Pumped Storage

Pumped storages create a waterfall by pumping water supply from a lower part to an upper reservoir when the energy demand is low. The water is released during moments of electrical demand, generating energy. 



Recent Fluctuations

After a decrease in output in 2021, the generation of hydroelectric power is once again on an upward trend. This hydropower generation market reached a global mark of $297.49 billion, with projected growth of 12.7% yearly, until 2026, according to Research and Markets report 2022


More governments around the world are investing in hydroelectric power systems, as they’re much cheaper and safer than nuclear energy, for instance. 


However, the generation of hydroelectric power can also be impacted by droughts. In 2021, persistent droughts in countries where hydroelectric power is prevalent, like Canada, the United States, China, Brazil and India, resulted in a below-average output. Nevertheless, the capacity kept on expanding, and reached 35 GW in 2021, 50% above the average of the previous five years, according to IEA (International Energy Agency) reports. 


Additionally, China led the capacity expansion effort and was responsible for 66% of this growth. The country keeps investing in hydropower clean energy. However, the Chinese expansion is likely to slow down shortly, due to the lack of suitable sites for the implementation of new projects.



What Are the Challenges Faced With Hydropower?

Hydropower is still the most important technology for renewable energy, with other options (wind turbines, solar panels, nuclear power plants, etc) lagging far behind. However, hydropower alone isn’t enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. 


Despite the upward trend, the installation of new hydropower plants needs to be more than double its pace until 2030 to hit the target. The expansion of hydropower production is also halted by aged plants and climate swings that often lead to drought. Hitting the Paris Agreement’s target will demand more commitment and investment from its signatories, mainly from emerging countries.


Challenges Faced With Hydropower


The Way Forward

Most advanced countries built their hydropower grids decades ago. According to the Hydropower Special Market Report, about 40% of the hydropower plants worldwide are over 40 years old. It represents 476 GW of the current output. 


Investing in the refurbishment and modernisation of the fleet is paramount for increasing global output. It involves the replacement of aged equipment, such as turbines and generators, and the digitalisation of the entire process. 


It’s necessary to assess the operational conditions of old green energy hydropower plants, as the water flow can change over time, affecting a plant’s capacity. Market regulators can also play a role in the revitalisation of hydropower facilities, by applying incentives to attract new investments for the segment.


The German Case

Back in 2020, the German government announced that the hydroelectric power in Germany would grow up to 1.4 GW by 2030. However, nearly one-third of the capacity will be installed outside of the country. This output is expected to be reached with five new plants. Two of which will be located abroad. 


The country currently has 26 pumped storage facilities, which deliver 6.3 GW of total capacity, with an extra 3.4 GW provided by stations abroad.


The German Case



Hydroelectric Power Plants From Premel

Premel is a Swiss company that has led the market of electrical engineering, with bespoke power generation solutions, since 1947. Over the years, Premel has done more than just provide the equipment you need for your project. We also offer a team of highly specialised professionals, who are ready to assist our clients much beyond the sales point.


Premel has built a reputation of high quality and trustworthiness, strictly following ISO 9001 standards. Today, Premel is one of the global leaders in the market of electromechanical supplies, power generators and general managing services for a wide range of engineering industries. Here, you’ll find everything you need for setting up a hydroelectric power station.



Premel can provide all the electrical supplies with your project demands. You can count on the support of our environmental engineers, electrical engineers and a wide pool of technicians. Premel is a one-stop station for the supplies you need for the technological success of your project. Learn more about Hydroelectric Power Plants from Premel.

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