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New study suggests global hydroelectric capacity has significant room for growth

A study unveiled earlier this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Brazil's Ministry of Mines and Energy shows that global hydroelectric production could double by 2050.

The report, titled, "Technology Roadmap: Hydropower," says emerging economies have significant potential to generate electricity from large plants, potentially reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions by up to 3 billion tonnes per year.

As the study's authors note, however, a number of policies, conditions and environmental issues must be addressed if hydropower is to grow as they describe.

"Hydroelectricity is a very cost-effective technology already," says IEA Deputy Executive Director Richard H. Jones. "However, new developments face tough financial challenges. Governments must create a favorable climate for industry investment when designing electricity markets."

Specifically, the report urges policy makers to:

  • Establish or update the inventory of hydropower potential -- at river basin level where appropriate -- including options to upgrade existing plants or add hydropower units to dams originally developed for other purposes;
  • Set hydropower development plans with targets, and develop a policy framework and market design for projects;
  • Ensure that project developers and operators document their approach to sustainability;
  • Include the financing of hydropower on policy agendas;
  • Develop new public risk-mitigating financial instruments, especially for developing countries.

IEA previously released a study that contains information about small hydropower projects worldwide.

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