If the world is to completely decarbonise and meet the climate goals set in the Paris Agreement, hydropower installed capacity, including pumped storage hydropower, should more than double by 2050, a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) suggests. 

The new report – The changing role of hydropower: Challenges and opportunities – highlights hydropower’s evolving role and points out that the majority of hydropower assets, built several decades ago, need to be upgraded according.

The report suggests that if hydropower is to grow the needed capacity, annual investments in hydropower also need to grow roughly fivefold. It points out that most hydropower potential lies in developing countries, and financing institutions need to work together with governments to overcome local risks and limitations, and funnel much-needed investment into these regions and countries.

According to the report, hydropower, despite being the most mature renewable technology, faces several challenges including: modernising ageing fleets to meet modern power system requirements; attracting new investments; and updating market structures and business models that do not reward all of the services provided by hydropower beyond power generation.

“Hydropower has been an effective source of clean power generation for more than a century,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “However, with the rapidly evolving energy landscape, it is important to reevaluate its future role and leverage recent technological advancements that can maximise its potential while ensuring its sustainability and climate resilience.”

The report emphasises that the planning and development of hydropower will only be successful if aspects of sustainability and resilience are taken into consideration.