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Hydropower: the unsung hero of renewable energy

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The Christian Science Monitor has the second article by Robert Rapier in a series on this year’s BP Statistical Review of Energy, this one looking at hydropower and geothermal powerHydropower: the unsung hero of renewable energy. he also uses data from the latest REN21 Renewables Global Status Report.

Hydropower accounts for more electricity production than solar PV, wind, and geothermal combined. In 2012, hydropower accounted for 16% of the world’s electricity production. However, hydropower gets far less press because it is a mature technology with a much lower annual growth rate than most renewables. While solar PV increased capacity by an average of 60% per year over the past 5 years, new hydropower capacity increased at a much more modest annual rate of 3.3%. …Despite hydropower’s current dominant position among renewables, growth in consumption of hydroelectricity will likely continue to be modest, because many of the best sites for hydroelectric dams have already been developed. The exception to this is in the Asia Pacific region, where hydroelectric consumption more than doubled over the past decade. The region currently accounts for 35% of global hydroelectric consumption, and that percentage is likely to increase as countries continue to develop hydroelectric power plants. …

In 2012, at least 78 countries used geothermal directly for energy. Over two-thirds of the geothermal energy for direct use was through geothermal heat pumps. 24 countries operated geothermal plants for electricity production. Total geothermal electricity capacity was 11.7 GW at the end of 2012. Capacity was led by the U.S. with 3.4 GW of capacity, followed by the Philippines at 1.9 GW, Indonesia at 1.3 GW, Mexico at 1.0 GW, and Italy at 0.9 GW. On a per capita basis, Iceland leads the world with 0.7 GW of capacity, which accounted for 30% of the country’s electricity in 2012.


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9 Comments on "Hydropower: the unsung hero of renewable energy"

  1. J-Gav on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 10:32 pm 

    Rapier’s a scientist and a competent one at that but he sure does write some weird stuff from time to time. 1 – In most countries, the best hydro sites have already been done and so, with increasing sedimentation, it’s more on the way out than on the way in; 2 – Hydro causes massive eco-system damage, not to mention displacement of large numbers of people (who have nowhere to go) as well as the submersion of some of the world’s great cultural sites; 3 – Hydro is not “renewable” energy, it peters out eventually and, depending on attendant climatic and political conditions can cause severe down-stream water shortages and international conflict. Unsung hero? I’m not so sure.

  2. Arthur on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 10:42 pm 

    Countries having sufficient supply of this gift of nature, Norway (100%), Canada (59%) and Switzerland (56%), are the envy of the world.

    “Hydro causes massive eco-system damage, not to mention displacement of large numbers of people (who have nowhere to go)”

    Yes, the fate of these displaced Norwegians, Canadians and Swiss is a harsh one indeed.

  3. BillT on Fri, 26th Jul 2013 12:58 am 

    Right on J-Gav. Hydro is maxed out most everywhere. And, as in the Us, most energy sources are NOT in the areas where they are most needed so transport costs and energy loss cuts down on their use and efficiency.

    WE have maxed out ALL of the cheaper sources, and now have to scrape under the barrels to find anything usable at any price. Demand destruction will cut use before we run out. Electric will just get too expensive for anything except basic necessities.

    But then, I am hearing rumblings of a world-wide nuclear war before 2020 so it may all be moot. It will be between the US, Russia, and China mostly, with collateral damage in many countries. Nothing like a double feature event. (Financial collapse followed by a nuclear war.)

  4. Bor on Fri, 26th Jul 2013 2:03 am 

    Again BillT may be right on money.

  5. DC on Fri, 26th Jul 2013 6:25 am 

    Hey Arthur, could you tone down the snark please? Canadian Hydro projects have displaced plenty of Canadians allright? My own gov’t plan to run people off their property and livelihoods.

    It happens ok Arthur?

    On the other side of the country, Hydro Quebec has displaced quite a few people itself over the years. Many of the stories are lost, or half-forgotten, but the are quite real.

  6. Arthur on Fri, 26th Jul 2013 9:07 am 

    “Hey Arthur, could you tone down the snark please? Canadian Hydro projects have displaced plenty of Canadians allright? My own gov’t plan to run people off their property and livelihoods.”

    Well, I am not too impressed with the injustice inflicted on the inhabitants of a few Canadian villages high up in the mountains. I am pretty sure these people were/will be 100% compensated by the rather potent Canadian economy.

    A few interesting facts:

    Electricity consumption in kWh/day

    Canada: 55
    EU: 18

    That’s a factor of 3 difference! That EU figure is rather evenly distributed over the EU countries, no big difference for instance between Germany and Spain.

    With 18 kwh in Europe we are fine. That means that Canada can probably run a reasonable comfortable economy on hydro alone! And where many here have black visions of the future where billions of people are going to die worldwide, I am supposed to feel deep sympathy for 100% compensated Canadian village people? Well, cry me a river, I don’t. In the light of what could happen to the world, Canada is likely going to be the exception of all exceptions: vast territory, endless resources, few people, beautiful landscape and almost free clean continuous flow of energy. Count your blessings. The interest of Canadian society vastly outweighs the relocating inconvenience of a few hundred/thousand people. In the 1950s a lot of Dutch could think of only two countries better than Holland and that was 1) Canada and 2) Australia and tens of thousands decided to emigrate. Not difficult to understand why and most of them fared very well in that land of milk and honey.

  7. Arthur on Fri, 26th Jul 2013 9:37 am 

    That must be: “Electricity consumption PER CAPITA in kWh/day”

  8. BillT on Fri, 26th Jul 2013 10:47 am 

    Arthur, how much ‘electric/energy’ do you import as finished goods or refined resources? A high percentage, I am sure.

  9. DC on Fri, 26th Jul 2013 4:51 pm 

    …..Arthur, nice non-sequitur. That particular dam, btw is meant to export below market rate electricity to the US. That being said, my people are wasteful….and?

    I know this already. I know they are slobs that would rather drive 2 blocks to get a latte than walk, and leave the lights on when they shouldn’t, and cant live w/o their electric can openers. As for our rather ‘potent’ economy, its busy raising taxes and cutting back services everywhere. So get off the high horse please.

    Most Canadian Dams are built with the thought of providing subsidized power to amerikan slobs so *they* can live far beyond their means as well. And plenty of people here have had there homes flooded to meet that particular goal over the years. Site C wouldnt even be necessary if not for total US control over my nations energy and natural resources.

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