Hydropower has a key role to play in helping Latin America and the Caribbean meet its clean energy goals, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and the International American Development Bank (IADB) have declared, highlighting actions that need to be taken by policymakers to maximise opportunities.

During a roundtable event hosted by the two organisations and attended by 44 participants from 19 countries, the IHA and IADB said sustainable hydropower is and will continue to be an essential part of the solution for the region. The event explored the incentives and regulations that would be required to ensure that enough private and public investment is attracted for socially and environmentally sustainable hydropower, to continue reliably decarbonizing LAC power grids as increasing amounts of wind and solar are deployed. 

The roundtable made the following observations for policymakers in the region: 

  • Plan for low carbon grids now.
  • Incentivise flexible electricity market arrangements.  
  • Make the most of existing infrastructure.  
  • Ensure robust sustainability standards using the Hydropower Sustainability Standard certification process of standards of International Development Financial Institutions, such as those of the IDB Group.

“Socially and environmentally-sound built hydroelectricity must play an important role in Latin America, complementing in a sustainable way the insertion of wind and solar energy,” said Marcelino Madrigal, Energy Division Chief at IDB. “With these three elements, together with greater regional integration, Latin America and the Caribbean can reach the goal of 70% renewable electricity by 2030.”

“Latin America is sitting on a huge opportunity for decarbonising electricity grids, for sustainable growth, and for climate resilience – don’t let sustainable hydropower become the forgotten giant of renewables,” added Eddie Rich, CEO of IHA. “Together water, wind and sun can get the job done.”

Almost half of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)’s electricity comes from hydropower. As well as delivering essential low carbon baseload power and energy security, hydropower provides flexibility, reliability and energy storage services to support and balance variable renewables such as wind and solar power. In those countries where a decarbonised electricity grid has been achieved significant amounts of hydropower are part of the energy mix. As hydropower infrastructure ages, appropriate incentives need to be put in place for its modernization and development.  

Credit: Marcos Gouvea