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Tracking Hydropower 2020

More efforts needed
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About this report

Hydropower generation is estimated to have increased by over 2% in 2019 owing to continued recovery from drought in Latin America as well as strong capacity expansion and good water availability in China. However, capacity additions overall declined for the fifth consecutive year, putting this technology off track with the SDS, which requires continuous growth in newly built capacity to maintain an average generation increase of 3% per year through 2030.

Hydropower generation in the Sustainable Development Scenario, 2000-2030

Tracking progress

In 2019, global net additions of hydropower reached only 12.7 GW, 45% lower than in 2018 and the lowest recorded since 2001. This is due to the continued slowdown in China, the country that has led global hydropower growth since 1996.

Hydropower remains the largest renewable electricity technology by capacity and generation, but current capacity growth trends are not sufficient to place hydropower generation fully on track to reach the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) level.

In the SDS, hydropower generation expands 3% per year until 2030, meaning that capacity additions need to accelerate to return to the record level of 2013 by 2030. Instead, capacity expansion has been losing speed. This downward trend is expected to continue, due mainly to less large-project development in China and Brazil, where concerns over social and environmental impacts have restricted projects.

Most hydropower projects have long lead times thus the impact of Covid-19 is expected to be limited compared to onshore wind and solar PV. However, some projects may be delayed due to Covid-19 lockdown measures. A number of projects in Southeast Asia have halted construction due to a shortage of staff as a result of lockdown measures and travel bans on cross-border workers.

The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on hydropower deployment is extensively covered in the IEA Renewable Energy Market Update released in May 2020.