As the world moves away from fossil fuels and looks towards more renewable solutions, most people are aware of solar and the major role it is playing.

Homes and businesses can have panels installed on their premises for massive savings and environmental gains, while solar farms are helping to contribute large volumes of clean energy into the mainstream grid.

There are other renewable sources that are having a major role, too, including wind turbines and geothermal energy. One of the most significant, though, is hydropower.

What is it and why is it so effective?

This is the simple process of channelling the power of moving water to generate electricity.

This is far from new technology, stemming back to its invention in England in 1878 when it was used to light a single lamp. Just four years after that discovery, there were major plants installed around the United States – including Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ottawa, Ontario, Dolgeville and Niagara Falls in New York.

The beauty lies in its simplicity. It is a very predictable and consistent form of renewable energy – and when you are dealing with major water sources and falls like Niagara, there is no fear of the water flow ever stopping.

It’s bigger than you might think

While solar is the most commonly known form of renewable energy, hydropower actually makes up around 60 per cent of all renewable energy production around the world.

China is the biggest producer with 356.4 terawatt-hours (TWh) annually, followed by Brazil (109.06 TWh), the United States (102.75 TWh), Canada (81.29 TWh) and India (50.07 TWh). Of note, the world top three emitters of carbon are China, the USA and India, and they have all ramped up their operations to help reduce that.

The combined growth of this around the world sits at around 2 per cent annually, and there are large-scale projects being installed all the time.

How it’s bringing power to those that had none

In developing nations like China and India with massive populations, not everyone has had access to reliable energy in the modern world. Hydropower is helping change that.

In 2002, 4.58 million households in China had no access to electricity. All the energy being produced was being used, and many people lived in far-flung villages didn’t have access.

By 2018, projects had been installed to make up around 18 per cent of China’s electricity generation, and now 100 per cent of all Chinese households have access to electricity.

Hydropower is also changing the lives of people in India, where there is currently 197 plants. The country imports hydroelectricity from neighbour Bhutan, and has been using this since 1897.

It is now a mature technology there, making India the world’s fifth-largest producer. This is also enabling the developing nation to bring reliable electricity to regions that have never had it before.


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