The International Energy Agency’s 2020 World Energy Outlook recognises the critical role of renewable and flexible hydropower in helping countries to meet their climate and sustainable development goals.
The report explores pathways out of the COVID-19 crisis, which the IEA says has “caused more disruption to the energy sector than any other event in recent history”.
Responding to the report, IHA head of policy Alex Campbell said: “Under all scenarios in this flagship report, hydropower will continue to have an important role as a major source of low-carbon electricity as well as vital flexibility and storage services.
“As the IEA notes, flexibility is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of electricity security. As conventional gas and coal fired power stations are phased out, hydropower’s system services will become even more important to the clean energy transition.
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Campbell added: “It is vital that appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks are in place to properly value the essential services that sustainable hydropower provides in respect of energy storage, grid stability and other critical areas.
“IHA urges governments and regulators across the world to start planning now for the flexible grids of the future that will support the integration of variable renewables with reliable and flexible solutions like hydropower.”
By 2030, the hydropower sector is expected to generate more electricity than coal under the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, involving a surge in clean energy policies and investment. By 2040, nearly 850GW of additional hydropower capacity will have been commissioned, mostly in the Asia Pacific region.
Even under the less optimistic Stated Policies Scenario, hydropower is still expected to see modest growth and will remain the largest low emissions source of electricity globally through to 2030.
Changes in the shape and variability of electricity demand and the strong growth of solar PV and wind power are increasing flexibility needs in power systems, the agency says.
“As flexibility needs increase, hydropower will have greater value to systems for its ability to provide a wide set of system services across a wide range of time scales from improving power quality on a moment-to-moment basis to balancing seasonal variability,” the report notes.
Over the next decade, the IEA says investment in low emissions power technologies could average more than $650 billion every year, over 90% of which could go to renewable energy technologies.