The East Asia and Pacific region continues to be the powerhouse for hydropower globally. China continues to lead the way with over 20 GW of new capacity in 2021, while others in the region added another 1 GW. With rapidly growing economies, continued population growth in many countries and an awareness of the impacts of climate change that will increase the pressure to remove coal, the region is likely to remain a new hydropower hotspot for the foreseeable future.
Along with South and Central Asia, the untapped potential in the region is the highest in the world. Developed sustainably it can help to relieve stresses on electricity grids as more solar is deployed, potentially with less significant land-use impacts.
At the end of 2021, the total installed capacity of hydropower in China reached 395.6 GW, almost one-third of the world total. Furthermore, nearly 2 GW of new hydropower capacity started operation in the country in the first two months of 2022.
In September 2021, China's National Energy Administration (NEA) published the mid-term and long-term plan from 2021 to 2035 for pumped storage hydropower development. According to this plan, the installed capacity of pumped storage hydropower will be at least 62 GW in 2025, and around 120 GW in 2030 – equivalent to 75 per cent of the entire world’s installed pumped storage capacity today.
Two of the twelve generators at the Fengning pumped storage facility went into operation in December 2021, providing 600 MW capacity. Once fully operational in 2023, it will, with 3,600 MW capacity, be the world’s largest pumped storage facility, providing over 6,600 GWh of electricity annually.
The world second largest hydropower station, Baihetan in China, has been in operation since July 2021. Three generators are in full operation, and the others are expected to be online in July 2022. The total installed capacity of the Baihetan station is 16 GW, providing 62,000 GWh every year.
In Australia, the AU$777 million Kidston Stage 2 pumped storage project reached financial close. Upon completion in 2024, the 250-MW plant will be able to store and discharge energy for up to eight hours.
Hydro Tasmania announced Lake Cethana as the preferred site for a pumped storage hydropower station as part of its Battery of the Nation initiative, with a proposal to double the capacity of the Tarraleah power station.
Australia also started the world’s first “solar-hydro” station, using heat generated from PV to push turbines in a water-based reservoir. The project will provide an installed capacity of 300 MW and annual generation of 3.6 GWh when it is completed in 2023.
The Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific signed financing agreements with the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority and Solomon Islands. Australia is funding construction of a 22-kilometre transmission system to deliver renewable energy generated by the Tina River Hydropower Project to the Solomon Island’s capital, Honiara.
Cambodia and Lao further strengthened their cooperation on hydropower projects, building on an agreement signed in 2019. Under the first phase of the agreement, Laos will export 2,400 MW of electricity in 2024.
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council has approved the Sustainable Hydropower Development Strategy for the Lower Mekong Basin to address the future potential for hydropower developments on the river.
In October 2021, Lao’s 1,272 MW Nam Ou hydropower plant started commercial operations, with annual generation expected to reach 5,000 GWh.
Two hydropower projects are currently under construction in Cambodia. One is the Stung Pursat project (80 MW), which went into construction stage in the fourth quarter of 2021, and is expected to start generating in 2026; the other is the Stung Tatai Leu project (150 MW), which is now expected to be completed in 2025 due to delays arising from the impact of Covid-19.
Vietnam’s Power Development Plan 8 was published in 2021, targeting a 75 per cent share of total generation for renewable energy by 2045. The total capacity of small hydropower sources is targeted to reach 4,800 MW in 2025, about 5,000 MW in 2030 and nearly 6,000 MW in 2045. In 2021, two new hydropower stations started operation in the country: Thuong Kon Tum (220 MW) and Bach Dang (5.3 MW).
Vietnam plans to accelerate the process for key hydropower projects, including the expansion of the Hoa Binh and Ialy hydropower plants in 2022. Furthermore, 20 MW of capacity will be added to the Dak Di hydropower project located in the Nam Tra My district, Quang Nam province. In 2022, the largest hydropower plant in southern Vietnam, the 400 MW Tri An hydropower plant in the Dong Nai Province, will see 200 MW added to its total capacity.
Indonesia published its “RUPTL PLN 2021–2030” with the national mid-term plan of achieving net zero by 2060. The plan aims to phase out coal by 2056, while hydropower will be the main source with 25.6 per cent of the national electricity supply, followed by solar with 11.5 per cent. With the inclusion of mini-hydropower, Indonesia’s potential is now estimated at 95 GW.
Indonesia added over 400 MW of new capacity in 2021, the most significant being a 260 MW expansion of the Poso hydropower plant, which finished construction in December 2021. Furthermore, the 105 MW Kerinchi hydropower station began construction and is expected to come online in 2023.
The Indonesian government stated that hydropower and floating solar will be the backbones of the national net zero strategy to resolve intermittency on the grid. The country has a floating-hydro program and is expected to include all existing reservoirs in Java as potential sites for floating PV, with a combined potential of 28 GW. Construction began on a floating PV project at Cirata hydropower station in 2021, which will be the largest floating PV station in Southeast Asia at 145 MW when complete.
In September 2021, the World Bank approved a US$380 million loan to develop the Upper Cisokan pumped storage hydropower plant – Indonesia’s first – located between Jakarta and Bandung, with an expected capacity of 1,040 MW.
Mongolia signed an agreement with China in September 2021 to develop the Erdeneburen hydropower plant, located on Khovd River in the Khovd Province, with an installed capacity of 90 MW.
Papua New Guinea signed a master development agreement with Fortescue Future Industries to start feasibility studies for seven hydropower projects with a total capacity of 15 GW in November 2021. The projects have the potential to produce up to 2.3 million tonnes of green hydrogen per year.
Japan announced its goals for carbon reduction and renewable energy in 2030. Renewable energy will provide more than a third of the national electricity supply, with solar (14–16 per cent) and hydropower (increasing its share from around 9 per cent today to around 11 per cent) as the top two energy sources.
In Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional Berhad received a notification from the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources in September 2021 to develop a 300 MW hydropower project to provide peak load for the national grid, as well as providing flood control benefits. The station will be in Kelantan and construction will start in 2026.
The Republic of Korea is promoting the construction of new pumped storage hydropower plants with a total capacity of 1.8 GW in Pocheon, Hongcheon and Yeongdong, with construction aimed to be completed in 2034.
The Philippines government updated its proposed National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) 2020–2040 in November 2021. The country aims to reach a 35 per cent share for renewable energy in the total generation mix by 2030, and 50 per cent by 2040. The Philippines Department of Energy opened a tender for 17 potential hydropower projects and five geothermal projects with a combined capacity of 150 MW in 2021. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that the capacity of hydropower in the Philippines will increase by 1.1 GW by 2030, with 0.5 GW from pumped storage hydropower, 0.3 GW from reservoir and 0.2 GW from run-of-river hydropower.
A number of new projects were announced in the country, including the 22 MW Siayan (Sindangan) hydropower plant in Zamboanga del, the 42 MW Bago plant in Negros Occidental, Aya in Pantabangan with 120 MW, and a 300 MW pumped storage hydropower station in Malay, Aklan, which will be the first pumped storage facility in the Philippines.
The Asian Development Bank and the Vanuatu government are extending their work on renewable energy projects for the islands of Malekula and Espiritu Santo. The Vanuatu Energy Access Project will help build a 400-kilowatt hydropower plant and extend the two islands' electricity grids to deliver sustainable, affordable power.