🌊 New sustainable hydropower can meet the world's energy needs
Many countries in Africa and Asia can get all the electricity they need by expanding hydropower and they can do it in ways that don't harm the environment.
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There is enormous potential for developing sustainable and profitable hydropower in Africa and Asia. A report produced by an international research group shows that the untapped profitable hydropower potential is 5,270 terawatt-hours per year in the world. For comparison, we can mention that Sweden's electricity production in 2021 was around 165 terawatt hours.
The researchers created a model to calculate the potential of untapped waterways and then used it to see how much more energy we could get from hydropower.
"We have developed a new global standard to be able to calculate how much sustainable hydropower could be built. We have studied topography, ecosystems, and watersheds all over the world, as well as a digital elevation model with a resolution of approximately 90 meters. In total, we have mapped 2.89 million rivers, it has been a lot of work," says Deliang Chen, professor at the University of Gothenburg and one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
Now, for various reasons, it is not suitable to expand hydropower everywhere, so the researchers had to find places where hydropower would do more good than harm.
“Our calculation excludes sensitive locations, for example in cultural heritage areas, especially protected areas for biodiversity, earthquake-prone zones, and densely populated regions. We want to draw attention to the fact that there is still enormous potential in hydropower globally," says Deliang Chen.
The most significant opportunity for new sustainable hydropower is in the Himalayan region, which accounts for two-thirds of the global potential. Next in line is Africa. According to the researchers, most countries could meet their energy needs there by expanding hydropower.
To get there, large investments, as well as political will between the countries, are required.
"The difficulty is that there are several countries that share the resources and it is important that they can agree. But the energy issue can also be an area where you can start collaborations across national borders," says Deliang Chen.
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