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Installed hydropower capacity: 
480,426 MW (2018)
Hydropower generation: 
1,534 TWh (2018)

The East Asia and Pacific region continued to be the engine room of the world’s hydropower sector in 2018, having added 9.2 GW of installed capacity, more than any other region. China accounted for most of the capacity additions with 8.54 GW added, including 1.5 GW of pumped storage. Excluding China, over 650 MW was added in the region.

China’s installed capacity passed 350 GW in 2018 with several projects, mainly located in the country’s south-west entering into operation. The need to reduce renewables curtailment, including hydropower, remains high on the government’s agenda having issued the Clean Energy Consumption Action Plan 2018-2020. The plan emphasised the importance of reforming China’s electricity market, improving provincial interconnections, increasing energy storage (including pumped storage) and enhancing power system flexibility.


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Outside of China, significant activity took place in the Greater Mekong region, notably in Myanmar where after some delay the government issued a notice to proceed for both the 1,050 MW Shweli 3 and the 60 MW Deeoke projects. Shweli 3 in Shan State is considered to be a priority project in order to meet the energy needs of the country over the medium term and will be developed by a consortium led by French utility EDF. The International Finance Corporation also released a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Myanmar’s hydropower sector, the culmination of a two-year process, which is seeking to help guide sustainable hydropower development with a strong focus on the need for basin-level planning.

Laos commissioned a further 254 MW in capacity, but the sector experienced a very difficult year due to the collapse of Xe-Pian Xe-Nam’s saddle dam in July 2018. Following the collapse, the Laotian government announced an investigation into its causes, a review of all existing and under-construction dams and a halt to proposed projects. The government also established a centre for dam safety management in order to prevent such incidents occurring in the future.

In Indonesia on the island of Sumatra the 56 MW Semangka project was commissioned in December 2018. Developed by two South Korean companies, together with local partners the run-of-river project will help displace fossil fuel fired power plants which dominate Sumatra’s electricity grid. With up to 6 GW of capacity either under construction or in the planning stages, hydropower is playing a key role in supporting the Indonesian government’s aim to increase the share of renewables in the country’s total energy use to 23 per cent by 2025 from 13 per cent in 2018.

Australia continued to progress with the development of several pumped storage projects, most notably Snowy Hydro’s ‘Snowy 2.0’ project and Tasmania’s ‘Battery of the Nation’ initiative. In late 2018, the board of Snowy Hydro approved a final investment decision to proceed with the project and in early 2019 its sole shareholder, the Australian Government followed suit. To be completed by 2025, Snowy 2.0 will provide an additional 2,000 MW of capacity and up to 175 hours of storage. Tasmania’s hydropower resources were identified by the state and federal government as an important future source of providing more flexible, reliable and dispatchable renewable energy to a transforming National Electricity Market with greater interconnection capacity to the mainland. In June 2018, Hydro Tasmania identified 14 options that represent 4,800 MW of cost-effective pumped storage potential and these options are now being investigated further to identify sites that could deliver an additional 2,500 MW of capacity.

In the Pacific, the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership was formed to support the aim of providing power to 70 per cent of the country’s population by 2030, up from around 13 per cent in 2018. Backed by the government, as well as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States, the USD 1.7 billion initiative will help fund new generation capacity as well as transmission and distribution lines throughout the country, which has significant untapped hydropower resources.

The 15 MW Tina River project in the Solomon Islands took a step closer to construction with the signing of several key agreements in 2018 including a power purchase agreement between the government and two Korean developers, K-water and Hyundai Engineering. In a country which is heavily reliant on expensive diesel power, the project has gained financial support from a number of development agencies and national governments with construction now expected to commence in 2019.

In Fiji, the European Investment Bank commissioned a feasibility study to identify the best hydropower scheme on the Qaliwana River which is able to meet the energy sector objectives of both the Fijian government and the Fiji Electricity Authority.

This regional profile is featured in the 2019 Hydropower Status Report. Download the report:

Picture: Mountain view of the Baihetan hydropower project. Credit: China Three Gorges

This profile was last updated in May 2019.