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Global Hydropower Increases

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Industrialized and developing countries continue to rely on their critical water resources as a renewable electricity source. Global use of hydropower increased more than 5 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to new research published by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. Hydropower use reached a record 3,427 terawatt-hours, or about 16.1 percent of global electricity consumption, by the end of 2010, continuing the rapid rate of increase experienced between 2003 and 2009. The average cost of electricity from a hydro plant larger than 10 megawatts is 3 to 5 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour. Hydropower is also a flexible source of electricity since plants can be ramped up and down very quickly to adapt to changing energy demands. Yet there are many negative aspects associated with hydropower: for example, damming interrupts the flow of rivers and can harm local ecosystems, and building large dams and reservoirs often involves displacing people and wildlife and requires significant amounts of carbon-intensive cement. China was the largest hydropower producer and is expected to continue to lead global hydro use in the coming years. The country produced 721 terawatt-hours in 2010, representing around 17 percent of domestic electricity use. China also had the highest installed hydropower capacity, with 213 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2010. It added more hydro capacity than any other country, 16 GW in 2010, and plans to add 140 GW by 2015. This is equivalent to building about seven more dams the size of China's Three Gorges Dam, currently the largest in the world. Hydropower is produced in at least 150 countries but is concentrated in just a few countries and regions. The Asia-Pacific region generated roughly 32 percent of global hydropower in 2010. Africa produces the least hydropower, accounting for 3 percent of the world total, but is considered the region with the greatest potential for increased production. Micro-hydropower, which is defined as a plant with an installed capacity of 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) or less, has grown in importance over the last decade and can be an effective means of providing electricity to communities far from industrial centers. As of 2009, roughly 60 GW of small hydro was installed worldwide, accounting for less than 6 percent of the hydropower total. Small hydro is likely to expand, especially as populous countries like India continue to pursue rural electrification. www.powersystemsdesign.com

 

 

 

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