Hydropower Can Help Climate

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People in the hydroelectric power industry have long known that this clean, reliable, renewable generating technology has an important role to play in meeting vital goals related to the environment and climate change.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agrees, as evidenced by an article published on its website last week.

Below are excerpts from the text of this article:

The rapid and responsible deployment of clean, renewable energy is crucial to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The evolution of solar and wind energy has been the driving force of the transition to a low-carbon world in the past years, but … one technology remains a cornerstone of the renewable energy mix in some regions of the Earth: hydropower.

Hydropower still accounts for 70% of the world’s renewable generation capacity, a proportion that rises to more than 80% in Latin America, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). So the sector has a key role to play in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Hydropower holds a double relationship with climate change. On the one hand, it contributes to the avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. On the other, water availability and hydropower generation are likely to be affected by changing rainfall patterns, which can reduce the flow of rivers.

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland (COP24) in December 2018, … Itaipu Binacional will showcase best practices in the sector to illustrate the potential of hydropower to avoid greenhouse gases emissions. Located on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, the plant is owned by the two governments and provides around 15% of the energy consumed in Brazil and 86% of the energy consumed in Paraguay. It also holds the world record of annual energy production for a hydroelectric plant, with 103.1 million MWh generated in 2016. Around 500 thousand barrels of oil per day, about a fifth of the Brazilian production, would be required to produce the same amount of energy.

The development of hydropower, however, does not come without environmental and social costs. …  An additional issue confronting the sector are the threats to its generation potential presented by climate change, which triggers an increased occurrence of extreme weather events. Between 2014 and 2017, an unprecedented drought reduced water pressure in hydroelectric plants in Brazil, resulting in higher water consumption tariffs.

The contribution of the hydropower sector to the goals of the Paris Agreement, therefore, needs to be considered not only in terms of avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, but also in promoting projects that ensure that the impacts of large projects are minimized and sufficiently compensated.

Itaipu implements projects in the areas of conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecosystem services and local cultures, providing a strong example of joint efforts between two countries working together to achieve sustainable development and leadership on climate action.

"Climate change challenges governments, companies and other organizations to work together in order to build a sustainable future for all. Itaipu understands it has, not only to generate clean and renewable energy, but also to promote water security, biodiversity conservation, and social development in Brazil and Paraguay", says Brazilian General Director of Itaipu Marcos Stamm.


Elizabeth Ingram for Renewable Energy World