Hydropower has a central role to play in the lower carbon grids of the future that will increasingly be based upon wind and solar generation.
Although hydropower is currently by far the largest source of renewable power generation, wind and solar power are expected to grow to overtake it in the future, although this will take some time.
In the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) REmap vision for 2030, pure and pumped hydropower capacity will rise to 1,925 GW, wind 1,634 GW and solar 1,250 GW.
Even today, however, the use of these variable resources are putting severe strain on some electricity grids which were not designed with them in mind. Changes in the weather from calm to windy and from cloudy to sunshine can bring large amounts of capacity online – whether or not there is demand for the extra supply.
The opposite can also be true with calm or cloudy conditions taking large amounts of capacity offline. The result is a sudden need to store excess energy or to generate additional energy from other sources.
Swedish and Norwegian hydropower generation is already linked to Danish wind power generation, with the hydro production being reduced when wind energy production is high and increased when it is low.
This also works more locally with pumped hydropower. The result of this co-operative approach is that much larger quantities of wind and solar can be integrated into grid systems, making the advance to a low carbon future far more viable.
Hydropower currently represents 99 per cent of this grid-level flexible storage capacity.
As a member of the International Renewable Energy Alliance (REN Alliance), we work with the International Geothermal Association, the International Solar Energy Society, the World Bioenergy Association and the World Wind Energy Association to develop an understanding of how the technologies can work together, and the policy mechanisms required.
You can find a recording of a webinar run with our REN Alliance partners exploring how 100 per cent renewable energy supply is possible here.
We are a member of the steering committee of the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) – a multi-stakeholder network that connects a wide range of key actors from a range of sectors to facilitate knowledge exchange, policy development and joint action towards a rapid global transition to renewable energy. We will represent the hydropower sector at REN21’s 2015 International Renewable Energy Conference in South Africa.
We are also on the steering committee of the EU-funded eStorage initiative, which aims to advance the flexibility of pumped hydropower in this role, demonstrate the opportunities with smart IT solutions and designing business models that will support the transition.