This region stands at the forefront of the global hydropower landscape. China, as the world leader, has an exploitable hydropower capacity ranging between 400-700 GW, largely attributed to its conducive geographical features, especially in the southwestern regions. Political stability permitting, Myanmar, with an estimated exploitable capacity of around 100 GW, has the potential to become a significant hydropower exporter. In the heart of Southeast Asia, Indonesia is estimated to have a technical hydropower potential of approximately 80 GW, of which around 38 GW is considered economically feasible. This is primarily on the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi. Malaysia and Laos, each with approximately 20 GW, also offer substantial hydropower resources.
Harnessing hydropower in the East Asia and Pacific region can significantly decrease regional fossil fuel reliance, contributing to carbon emission reduction, and fostering sustainable economic growth.
China has made huge commitments on PSH and hybrid solar-hydropower plants. Elsewhere in the region, investment in PSH is evident with development of large PSH facilities across the region. Australia is developing the Queensland’s Pioneer-Burdekin pumped hydro project and in French-Polynesia, the Fa'atauti'a is undergoing modernisation.
Australia continues to promote clean energy and to phase out coal capacity, with energy storage playing a critical role in its push towards a renewable energy future in the country. The Queensland Premier has allocated another A$13m in the state budget to accelerate key technical studies to enable a final investment decision to advance the 1 GW/24 GWh Borumba PSH project near Gympie in the state’s south-east.
Queensland’s mid-coast is set to provide 5 GW of storage – enough to supply half of Queensland’s entire energy needs. Stage one of the Pioneer-Burdekin pumped hydro project, said to be part of the largest pumped hydro energy storage scheme in the world (according to Queensland’s premier), was announced in September 2022 and is estimated to be completed in 2032, with the final stage operational by 2035.
In 2022, China added over 15 GW to its conventional hydropower capacity and a further 8.7 GW of PSH. Furthermore, the National Energy Administration published their mid-term and long-term plans from 2021 to 2035 for PSH development which would see installed PSH capacity at least 62 GW in 2025, and around 120 GW in 2030, from the present 44.7 GW.
The 16 GW Baihetan hydropower station, now the second largest hydropower project in the world in terms of total installed capacity, became fully operational in December 2022.
Finally, Yalong Hydropower is building a 1 GW solar park, Kela Photovoltaic Power Station that will be connected to an operational 3 GW Lianghekou hydropower facility on the Yalong River in Southwestern China. Upon completion, this new hybrid PV-hydropower complex will be the world's largest power plant of its kind. The hydropower side of the project has an adjustable capacity of up to 6.56bn cubic metres of water.
In French Polynesia, planning for the modernisation of the Fa'atauti'a 2 hydroelectric power plant in 2024 and 2025 is a key priority. It was built and commissioned in 1984, with a capacity of 960 kW. With a total production since its commissioning of 128 GWh and an average of 3.5 GWh per year, this plant alone ensures an annual production equivalent to the consumption of the island of Nuku Hiva.
Laos added 1,100 MW to its hydropower capacity. The Nam Theun 1 Hydropower Project started commercial operation with a 177m dam located on the Nam Kading River in Bolikhamxay Province. The dam has a total installed capacity of 650 MW, of which a total of 520 MW will be exported to Thailand and 130 MW will be for domestic consumption. The Nam Theun 1 is the last project to be developed in the Nam Theun-Nam Kading hydropower cascade scheme in Laos.
The Nam Theun 1 Power Company project is a joint venture between Phonesack Group (32 per cent), Chaleun Sekong Energy Company (28 per cent), Electricity Generating Public Company of Thailand (25 per cent), and Electricité du Laos (15 per cent). China’s state-owned Sinohydro Bureau 3 was also engaged in civil works for the project. The cost of the project is estimated at US$1,335m with major financing provided by Bangkok Bank, Export-Import Bank of Thailand, Siam Commercial Bank and TISCO Bank.
Filipino Infrastructure developer Prime Infra is in the pre-development stage of the 500 MW Wawa PSH project in the Rizal province, with construction due to start in 2023. This project has an estimated investment cost of US$1bn and is seen as one of the Philippines’ most strategically important power generation assets in terms of ensuring the immediate reduction of power prices. Wawa is intended to help support the Philippine government’s push toward tripling the country’s green energy generating capacity by 2030 by providing grid stability.
In 2022, the Filipino Government increased its original energy target for the share of renewable energy to 35 per cent by 2030 and 50 per cent by 2040. Additional targets including a 12 per cent reduction in CO2. The Laguna PSH project was announced in October 2022, with a capacity of 800 MW and a cost of US$1.3bn.
Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2026 and will generate an average annual energy supply of 1,523 GWh.
In Thailand, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is focusing on expanding its pumped storage capacity to increase the security of the system during peak demand and allow for the greater integration of variable renewable energy. It currently operates three facilities totalling 1.53 GW and is reviewing the feasibility of six further projects including the proposed 900 MW Vajiralongkorn pumped storage project in Kanchanaburi Province. The main goals of this feasibility study include conducting geotechnical and geological investigations of the project site and developing a high-level conceptual design for the PSH plant. The planned open-loop project is currently projected to be developed between 2029 and 2036 at an estimated cost of Baht 32bn (US$938.4m).
Malaysia The Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) in Malaysia has set an ambitious target to attract new investments and create more jobs in Malaysia's renewable energy sector. SEDA
announced a feed-in tariff quota application for small hydropower resources. In 2022 it was announced that 127 MW of small hydropower projects became qualified for the scheme.
The 1,285MW Baleh Hydroelectric Project has been commissioned for completion in 2027. The hydropower facility is being developed by Sarawak Energy Berhad Power. The main civil works are being jointly conducted by China Gezhouba Group Company Ltd and local firm Untang Jaya Sdn Bhd.
Hydropower sources in Vietnam have the potential to produce up to 40 GW of electricity. The total capacity of hydropower, including small hydroelectricity plants, is expected to reach almost 30 GW by 2030.
In 2022, the country added 33 MW installed capacity for conventional hydropower with the completion of the Dak Di 1 Hydro Power Plant.
According to the newly published “Power Development Plan VIII”, the Vietnamese Government is prioritising multi-purpose and PSH projects.