Storage technology could boost the role of hydropower in the global energy transition | Atalayar

Whereas the world is striving to meet net-zero emissions targets amid geopolitical disruption and supply chains that threaten energy imports, emerging markets are turning to investments in hydropower and storage to facilitate their energy transition.

In the latest sign of commitment to the world’s largest source of low-cost, low-carbon electricity, India pledged $2.4 billion in August 2022 to develop West Seti and Seti River hydropower projects in Nepal, which have a combined capacity of 1.2 GW. Two Chinese companies had signed memorandums of understanding to finance the projects, but pulled out of those commitments in 2018.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), emerging economies have exploited only 40% of their hydropower generation potential.

By leveraging new technologies and smaller-scale projects, emerging markets give new impetus to hydropower to reduce imports of coal or natural gas and provide more energy nationally or regionally through cross-border trade.


Development of hydroelectric capacity

In 2021, hydropower capacity was approximately 1,360 GW, producing 16% of the electricity used globally. It has produced twice as much electricity as wind and four times as much as solar, although the latter’s growth rates are expected to close this gap over time.

The IEA predicts declining hydropower capacity in China, Latin America and Europe, regions that have long driven the sector through large-scale dam projects, but it also predicts that new projects in Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East will drive 17% annual growth in global capacity between 2021 and 2030.

In fact, the IEA predicts that 75% of new hydroelectric capacity will come from large-scale projects in Asia and Africa.

Among the new hydroelectric capacities added in 2021, India (803 MW), Nepal (684 MW), Laos (600 MW), Turkey (513 MW), Indonesia (481 MW) and Vietnam (222 GW) are among the top 10, according to the “2022 Hydropower Status Report” published by the International Hydropower Association.

Generally, new capacity additions for hydropower have slowed since 2017with 22 GW of new capacity added each year compared to the 45 GW needed to align with global net zero goals.

Financial and environmental headwinds

China has dominated the adoption of hydropower over the past decade and accounted for 20.8 GW of new capacity in 2021.

However, the drought, triggered by a month-long heat wave, led China to take emergency measures to ease the pressure on the power grid, including cutting power to industry, which could make the country reluctant to invest more in hydropower.

Another concern is funding. In recent years, many hydropower projects have been funded by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but BRI funding levels have slowed in recent years for state-funded projects. abroad.

China has financed two major projects over time: the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi project in Nepal, connected to the grid in 2021, and the 720 MW Karot project in Pakistan, completed in 2022.

PHOTO/ARCHIVE – Solar panels

Environmental considerations have also led some countries to question whether to launch new projects.. For example, the Chinese-funded 90 MW Erdenburen power plant in Mongolia has faced opposition from groups concerned that the megaproject could damage Ramsar wetlands and disrupt indigenous communities.

New cross-border energy connections

Despite these concerns, countries are exploring other avenues of financing to pursue hydropower development, the India-Nepal agreement being an excellent example.

India commissioned the 180 MW Bajoli Holi run-of-river project in Chamba district in July 2022. Commissioned by GE Renewable Energy, the three 60MW units will provide 94% of the electricity needed for Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, with the remaining 6% coming from solar panels.

Like the India-Nepal deal, the countries are seeking to increase cross-border trade in hydropower. In August 2022, Kenya agreed to import 200 MW of power from Ethiopia under the Kenya-Ethiopia Highway Project. It is planned to double this amount, which will be sent through a 500 KV interconnection line, in the future..

One of the most ambitious attempts to increase cross-border hydropower trade is underway in Central Asia, in the form of the IEA’s roadmap for Tajikistan, which receives a five-year, $39 million annual grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Tajikistan ranks eighth in the world in terms of hydropower potential. The $1.2 billion CASA-1000 (Central Asia and South Asia and Central Asia Energy Project) project, with a capacity of 1.3 GW, aims to transport excess hydroelectricity from the Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan, then to Pakistan. Funded in part by the World Bank, Hitachi Energy (Japan) and Cobra Group (Spain) are constructing the project’s 800 km of connection lines and two high-voltage converter stations.

Meanwhile, the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Project aims to provide water to South Africa and ensure energy security for Lesotho. In 2021, the project received an $86.7 million loan from the African Development Bank.

AFP/INA FASSBENDER – Plant for the production of green hydrogen at the “Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland” site of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell in Wesseling, western Germany

Storage of hydroelectric energy by pumping

Enhancing hydropower’s footprint in emerging markets will require adopting pumped hydropower (PSH), which accounts for more than 90% of the world’s total energy storage capacity.

PSH plants pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir and then release the energy as needed, acting like a giant underground battery.

The IEA predicts that PSH will account for 30%, or 65 GW, of global hydropower capacity expansion between 2021 and 2030which greatly exceeds the storage capacity of traditional batteries.

China aims to produce 62 MW of pumped storage by 2025 and 120 GW by 2030, according to targets publicly set in September 2021. In its “Draft National Electricity Policy 2021”India has indicated that it has a potential of 96.5 GW for PSH, which is significantly higher than the 4.8 GW developed so far.

In addition, Switzerland inaugurated in August the underground PSH power plant in Nant de Drance, in Valais, which has six turbines located in a cavern 600 meters underground and with a capacity of 900 MW.

Among the many PSH projects under construction are the 250 MW Hatta PSH plant in Dubai, which would be the first of its kind in the Gulf Cooperation Council region; the 1.2 GW Kobong pumped storage project in Lesotho, scheduled for completion in 2024; and a planned 200 MW project in Jamaica, that could increase the country’s overall clean energy generation portfolio by 13-50%.

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