Storage technology can boost hydropower’s role in the global energy transition | Atalayar

As the world strives to achieve net-zero emissions targets against a geopolitical backdrop and supply chain disruptions that threaten energy imports, emerging markets are turning to hydropower investment and storage to ease their energy transitions.

In the latest sign of commitment to the world’s largest source of cheap and low-carbon electricity, India pledges $2.4 billion in August 2022 to develop West Seti and Seti River hydropower projects in Nepal, which have a total capacity of 1.2 GW. Two Chinese companies had signed memorandums of understanding to finance the projects, but withdrew from those commitments in 2018.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), emerging economies have only benefited 40% of their hydropower generation potential.

By using new technologies and smaller projects, emerging markets are generating new momentum for hydropower to reduce coal or natural gas imports and supply more electricity to the country or region through cross-border trade.


Construction of hydropower capacity

In 2021 hydroelectric capacity was approximately 1,360 GW, generating 16% of the electricity used globally. It generates twice as much electricity as wind and four times as much as solar, although the latter’s growth rates should close that gap over time.

The IEA predicts a decline in hydropower capacity in China, Latin America and Europe – regions that have long powered the sector through large-scale reservoir projects – but also predicts that new projects in Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East will fuel 17% annual growth in global capacity between 2021 and 2030..

Indeed, The IEA expects 75% of the new hydroelectric capacity to come from large-scale projects in Asia and Africa.

Among the new hydroelectric capacity additions in 2021. India (803 MW), Nepal (684 MW), Laos (600 MW), Turkey (513 MW), Indonesia (481 MW) and Vietnam (222 GW) all were in the top 10, according to the 2022 State of Hydropower Report published by the International Hydropower Association.

generally, the addition of new hydropower capacity has slowed since 2017adding 22 GW of new capacity annually, compared to the 45 GW needed to align with global net-zero goals.

Financial and environmental headwinds

Over the past decade, China has dominated the use of hydroelectric power represents 20.8 GW of new capacity in 2021.

However, the drought – brought on by a month-long heat wave – prompted China to take emergency measures to ease pressure on the power grid, such as cutting off electricity to industry, which may make the country reluctant to invest more in hydroelectric power.

Another problem is funding. Many hydropower projects in recent years have been financed through China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but BRI funding levels have slowed in recent years for state-funded projects overseas.

Two major river projects – the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi project in Nepal, connected to the grid in 2021, and the 720 MW Karot project in Pakistan, completed in 2022. – were financed by China.

PHOTO/ARCHIVE – Solar panels

Environmental considerations have also led some countries to question whether to launch new projects. For example, the Chinese-funded 90-MW Erdenburen plant in Mongolia has faced opposition from groups concerned about the megaproject’s potential to damage Ramsar wetlands and disrupt local communities.

New cross-border energy links

Despite these concerns, countries are exploring other ways to finance continued hydropower development, with the India-Nepal deal being a prime example.

India brought online the 180 MW Bajoli Holi drainage basin project in Chamba district in July 2022.. Commissioned by GE Renewable Energy, the three 60 MW units will supply 94% of the electricity required for Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, with the remaining 6% coming from solar panels.

Similar to the India-Nepal deal, the countries are looking to increase cross-border trade in hydropower. In August 2022, Kenya agreed to import 200 MW of electricity from Ethiopia as part of the Kenya-Ethiopia highway project. The plan is to double this amount in the future, which will be sent through a 500 KV interconnector.

One of the most ambitious attempts to increase cross-border trade in hydropower is taking place in Central Asia in the form of the IEA Roadmap for Tajikistan, which is supported by a five-year, $39 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development.

Tajikistan ranks eighth in the world in terms of hydropower potential, and the $1.2 billion, 1.3-GW Central Asia-South Asia Power Project, or CASA-1000, seeks to transport excess hydropower from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and then Pakistan. Partly financed by the World Bank, Japan’s Hitachi Energy and Spain’s Cobra Group are building the 800km interconnection lines and two high-voltage transformer stations for the project.

Meanwhile, the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands project aims to provide water for South Africa and energy security for Lesotho. In 2021 the project received an 86.7 million dollar loan from the African Development Bank.

hydrogen production plant
AFP/INA FASSBENDER – A green hydrogen production plant at the site of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell’s “Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland” in Wesseling, West Germany

Pumped water storage

Building hydropower’s footprint in emerging markets will require the adoption of pumped storage hydropower (PSH), which accounts for over 90% of the world’s total energy storage capacity.

PSH plants pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir and then release the power as needed, acting as a giant underground battery.

TThe IEA predicts that PSH will account for 30%, or 65 GW, of the global expansion of hydropower capacity between 2021 and 2030.significantly surpassing the storage capacity of traditional batteries.

China aims to produce 62 MW of pumped storage by 2025 and 120 GW by 2030, according to targets publicly set in September 2021. “Draft National Electricity Policy 2021”India noted that it has 96.5 GW of PSH potential, significantly higher than the 4.8 GW developed so far.

Elsewhere, Switzerland launched the underground plant for PSH Nant de Drance in Valais in August, which includes six turbines located in a cave 600 meters underground with a capacity of 900 MW.

Among the many PSH projects under construction are the 250-MW Hatta PSH plant in Dubai, believed to be the first of its kind in the GCC; the 1.2 GW Kobong pumped storage project in Lesotho, which is scheduled for completion in 2024; and a planned 200-MW project in Jamaica, which could increase the country’s clean energy production in its overall portfolio from 13% to 50%.

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