A new study has identified decades-old hydropower stations across Asia that could contribute to the region’s clean energy goals if they were significantly upgraded.

The research by the International Hydropower Association (IHA), conducted for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), says that 66 hydropower stations across 19 countries could be ripe for modernisation, at an estimated investment value of up to US$13.7 billion.

Asia is home to around half the world’s installed hydropower capacity, at almost 650 GW. Hydropower is therefore a major contributor to the region’s electricity mix, accounting for around 14 per cent of total annual electricity generation. Countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Cambodia, Georgia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Tajikistan rely on hydropower for over half of annual generation. 

IHA has estimated that more than a third of the continent’s capacity will require, or have undergone, modernisation by 2030. Excluding China, which has a larger proportion of newer hydropower plants, this figure rises to around half of existing capacity.

The new research from AIIB and IHA, conducted over an eight-month period, found the countries with most hydropower capacity in need of modernisation and further investigation are India and Turkey.  

The main drivers behind the need for hydropower modernisation range from upgrading ageing equipment, to improving energy performance, reducing environmental impacts, and complementing renewables like solar and wind.

The study was completed in March 2020 and also involved a high-level cost benchmarking exercise to help inform understanding of investment cost ranges for modernisation. The AIIB working paper published this week presents a condensed version of IHA’s final report. This working paper was authored by David Morgado from AIIB and Nicholas Troja, Amina Kadyrzhanova and David Samuel from IHA. 

The 19 countries covered are Azerbaijan, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.