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Hydropower’s most important characteristic is that it is renewable, survey confirms

In December 2015, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) conducted a new annual survey. More than 200 people involved in hydropower gave their views on a range of issues for the sector.

Hydropower is a renewable energy sourceSurvey respondents were asked to select the three characteristics of hydropower they considered to be the most important. The most commonly selected characteristics were that hydropower is a renewable energy source (66.5%), that it can provide multiple water services (55.2%) and that it is a sustainable energy source (39.2%).

Looking ahead to the future prospects for hydropower, 85.5% of respondents said they were either certain or fairly confident that the sector would grow over the next three years around the world.  Although this question was asked in a global context, it’s interesting to note that the answers varied according to the respondents’ main region of activity. The proportion of respondents that said they were certain the sector would grow over the next year years were significantly higher in South and Central Asia (50.7%), East Asia and Pacific (48.9%) and Africa (46.9%), than in Europe (34.4%), South America (35.2%), and North and Central America (40.9%).

The survey also explored recent and planned development activity: 56.7% of  respondents said that their organisation had been involved in the commissioning of new capacity (including upgrades) in the last 12 months, while 47.1% said that their organisation expected to be involved in the commissioning of new capacity in the next 12 months.

When broken down by respondent demographics, 58% of developers, owners and operators indicated they will be involved in commissioning new capacity in 2016. Having over half of the sector currently involved in expansion activities indicates a positive investment scenario, and since hydropower is a long-term investment, it also reflects that the future financial health of the industry is robust despite current challenges.

We asked respondents to indicate how important they considered various topics to be from the perspective of their professional role and responsibilities. The highest scoring among 21 listed topics was hydropower’s role in clean energy systems, with 85.9% of respondents identifying it as either business critical or very important. Close behind were cost of generation (81.7%) and availability of finance (80.7%).

Respondents were also asked to answer the same question from the perspective of their organisation as a whole. Through this lens, cost of generation was identified as the most important topic, with 93.1% considering it to be business critical or very important, followed by availability of finance (92.9%) and macroeconomic benefits of hydropower (86.2%). 

We invited respondents to highlight any policy developments that have affected hydropower locally, nationally or internationally, whether positively or negatively, in the last year. The responses included:

  • The COP21 Paris Agreement
  • The US Clean Power Plan
  • Policy to promote the upgrading and capacity-increasing of hydropower projects in China
  • Reforms to the renewable energy target in Australia
  • Renewable energy feed-in tariff programme expansion in Africa
  • Policy prioritising the development of solar power in India
  • Reforms to allow foreign governments to make direct investments in Nepal
  • Removal and reduction of feed-in tariffs in south-east Europe
  • 2050 energy plan targeting 70% renewables in Chile

The survey invited respondents to name the five organisations they considered to have the most influence on hydropower globally. Collating these responses, the highest-ranking organisations were the World Bank Group, IHA, Government of China, China Three Gorges Corporation, Asian Development Bank, ICOLD, UNFCCC, Sinohydro, International Rivers, WWF, International Energy Agency, The Nature Conservancy, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation India, Government of USA, Engie, Hydro-Québec, Statkraft, EDF and the Government of India.


A detailed analysis of the IHA annual issues survey will be published in March 2016. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact the team.