LONDON (Reuters) – Governments must provide incentives to help drive investment in hydropower as the “forgotten workhorse” if the world is to meet pledges to cut emissions and combat climate change, energy agencies said on Wednesday.
The sector has faced ire from campaigners and scrutiny by governments over its impact on rivers and biodiversity, but is the world’s biggest source of renewable energy.
“Hydropower needs to get the attention it deserves in clean energy transitions if we want to be successful,” Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency told a webinar on the future of the sector.
The leader of the Paris-based watchdog has urged a doubling in global investment in sustainable hydropower, calling it renewable energy’s “forgotten workhorse”.
“Clean energy transitions will not happen if everything is left to markets today, there is a need to provide incentives from governments,” Birol said, noting that the bulk of untapped hydropower potential was in the developing world.
Late last year the European Commission proposed new criteria for measuring the sustainability of hydropower projects.
The new financial guidelines will assess the sector’s CO2 emissions as well as impacts on water and marine resources, which could undercut its funding and green status and has drawn criticism from leading producers like Norway. [L8N2IY2S6]
“Hydropower is rarely listed along wind and solar as a main plank for the energy transition,” said Eddie Rich, CEO of the International Hydropower Association, which hosted the event.
“Investment in the sector is rarely financially enabled and some countries don’t recognise hydropower as being renewable.”
Over half the world’s current capacity in renewable energy comes from hydropower, the association says, and it employs around two million people.
Francesco La Camera, director of The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said that a post-coronavirus economic recovery should involve a jump in annual investments in hyrdropower from $22 billion to $55 billion to 2030.