IRENA advocates 150% increase in sustainable hydropower investments

24 June 2020

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has outlined a Covid-19 recovery plan involving a major scaling up of global investment in sustainable hydropower projects to more than US$70 billion annually.


The agency’s report published today, Post-COVID Recovery: An Agenda for Resilience, Development and Equality, recommends a range of measures that should be adopted by governments over the next three years, and beyond.  

Scaling-up public and private energy spending to US$4.5 trillion per year would boost the world economy by an additional 1.3 per cent annually, creating 19 million additional energy transition-related jobs by 2030, IRENA says.

Jobs in the renewables sector could triple to 30 million by 2030, with IRENA estimating that every million US dollars invested in renewables could create three times more jobs than in fossil fuels.

“Renewables have proven to be the most resilient energy sources throughout the current crisis,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA. “This evidence should allow governments to take immediate investment decisions and policy responses to overcome the crisis.  

“With today’s recovery plan for governments, IRENA uses its global mandate on energy transitions to inform decision-making at this critical time, while staying on course toward a fully decarbonised system by 2050.”

For the hydropower sector, the report states:

  • Annual investment in hydropower (excluding pumped storage) should increase from US$22 billion to US$55 billion per year to 2030 to support the recovery and accelerate the energy transition. This represents a 150 per cent increase and is considerably larger than the increases needed for both wind (61 per cent) and solar PV (45 per cent).  
  • For pumped storage hydropower, IRENA recommends an additional US$16 billion per year of new investment.
  • Fast-tracked licensing, streamlined permitting, centralised planning, customised loans and long-term power purchase agreements are among the measures needed to boost hydropower investment and development.
  • There is also a strong need to redesign power markets to provide stable long-term signals to renewable power generators such as hydropower while also rewarding short-term flexibility.
  • Through these policy actions and investment, hydropower could contribute three million jobs by 2030, up from two million today.  

Many of the policy measures outlined the report echo recommendations put forward in IHA’s position paper released last month on the role of sustainable hydropower in the Covid-19 recovery.  

Commenting on the IRENA plan, IHA Senior Analyst Nicholas Troja said: “Today’s IRENA report again highlights hydropower’s potential to create skilled jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions at scale, and help meet the flexibility needs of modern power systems.

“Supported by IHA and the sector, policy-makers must redouble their efforts to implement these sensible measures which would help unlock billions of dollars of investment in sustainable hydropower development.”

More information

Read IHA’s Covid-19 position paper and related reports:

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