The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, and China met for the first time in 2006 and, shortly afterwards, formally became known as BRIC in an effort to bring together some of the world’s most promising and emerging economies. In 2010, South Africa then joined the group and BRICS was formed. Together these countries comprise 41% of the world population, have 24% of world GDP and over 16% of world trade (based on 2019 figures), and often come together under the three pillars of policy and security, economics and finances, and culture.

With the exception of China, as BRICS growth began to slow investor attention gradually turned to the MINT bloc of countries comprising Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. MINT was formed in 2011 based on these countries’ future growth potential according to favourable geographic, demographic, and economic factors. For example, Nigeria was reportedly chosen due to its wealth of natural resources while Indonesia has a large workforce which is viewed as being a significant economic asset. Although these countries have noticeably smaller economies than BRICS, they do have the potential to be ranked among the top ten global economies by 2050, but analysts warn investment here does not necessarily guarantee profits – MINT member countries can still suffer from political instability, corruption, and the aftermath of previous economic problems.

Once viewed as a loose association of disparate emerging economies, Reuters reports that in recent years the BRICS group has taken more concrete shape. Indeed, discussions are currently underway to look at expanding the block in an effort to become “a champion of the developing world” and position itself as a counterweight to Western countries. Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Egypt, Argentina, Bangladesh, and Kazakhstan are reported to have shown interest in future development and have been involved in recent Friends of BRICS expansion talks.


In Mexico, with its varied topography and extensive river systems, hydropower has an estimated 20GW of exploitable hydropower potential. Out of 18 countries in North and Central America, Mexico is ranked third with 12,614MW of total installed hydropower capacity, according to the International Hydropower Association’s 2023 World Hydropower Outlook.

With hydropower currently providing about 11% of the country’s total annual electricity generation, IHA says that this continues to grow due to direct government investment in the modernisation of existing hydropower fleets and the development of new projects.

CFE, the country’s federal power company, has recouped 261MW of capacity so far and drawn 31% more power from its aged hydropower fleet that it is currently overhauling and modernising. Indeed last year CFE also announced that optimising water management on the Grijalva River basin led to a 41% increase in electricity generation year on year.


The Indonesian government has been praised by the World Water Council for its efforts to construct dams and address water resource management problems, helping to improve food and water security. World Water Council President, Loic Fauchon, even described the country as being a world champion in dam construction.

Set to host the 10th World Water Forum in 2024, Indonesia is urging other governments to stop ignoring water, which it describes as being a political problem that requires government attention to deal with all current water-related problems, including scarcity and natural disasters such as droughts and floods.

“Don’t ignore this water problem,” says Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, who is also Vice Chairman of the 10th World Water Forum National Organising Committee and believes that European water shortages have been caused by climate change and a lack of reservoirs. “It’s because of politics,” Minister Basuki claims and gave the contrasting example of Indonesia that is building 61 dams and will complete 13 this year.

Indonesia says its dams are not only beneficial for flood control but water supply and irrigation too. From 2015-22, it completed 36 dams which can irrigate crop fields four times the size of Jakarta, and provide additional water to fulfil the needs of ten million people.

From a hydropower perspective, Indonesia has a total installed capacity of 6602MW and is ranked sixth out of 20 countries across East Asia and Pacific, according to the IHA’s World Hydropower Outlook.


Ranked eight out of 43 listed African countries, Nigeria has a total installed hydropower capacity of 2,111MW. Recent developments here include the selection of Mainstream Energy as the concessionaire for the 700MW Zungeru hydropower plant, while there is hope that the required capital can be sourced to double the existing capacity of the Egbin power plant to 2.6 GW.

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria also recently commissioned the 40MW Kashimbila Multipurpose Dam project in Taraba State which was developed to address the danger posed by the structurally weak and toxic Lake Nyos, situated along the line of volcanic activities in the Cameroon Republic. The potential collapse of Lake Nyos could result in catastrophic flooding, endangering the lives and properties of millions of people. The project also includes a 40MW hydropower station, a water supply scheme with a capacity of 60,000m3 per day, and a 2000-hectare irrigation system.

President Buhari said that the water supply component has reached 65% completion, while the engineering design for the irrigation scheme has been finalised and construction work is set to commence soon. Underlining Nigeria`s dedication to achieving its ambitious plan of supply 30GW of electricity by 2030, with renewable energy accounting for at least 30% of the energy mix, President Buhari also announced readiness for commissioning other similar projects, including the 40MW Dadinkowa Hydropower Plant in Gombe State and the 700MW Zungeru Hydropower Plant in Niger State.


Eco Wave Power has signed an agreement with OREN Ordu Enerji for the construction of a 77MW wave energy installation in Turkey – the country’s first grid-connected wave energy station, and upon completion, the world’s largest wave energy power station, according to the company.

The project is expected to be built in several stages, starting with an up to 4 MW pilot station, and continuing with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the remaining capacity of the plant of up to 73MW.

Inna Braverman, Founder and CEO of Eco Wave Power added: “We are very excited to announce this landmark agreement between Eco Wave Power and Ordu Enerji, as this relationship will allow us to provide clean electricity from Turkish waves, for the very first time. With ambitious sustainability goals, Turkey is an interesting location to further implement and develop our innovative wave energy technology.”

Mustafa Kemal Macit, President and CEO of Ordu Enerji, commented: “The entire municipality of Ordu is excited to fully realise the sea’s potential and use its unlimited source of energy to power our electrical grid.”

Full commercial operations are also due to start at Turkey’s 275m high Ysufeli Dam in the summer of 2023.  Construction at the country’s tallest dam began in 2013 and it was inaugurated in November 2022. With a total installed capacity of 558MW, it houses three Francis turbine-generator units and with an annual production of 1900GWHh, Ysufeli Dam will add US$269million added value to the economy each year, fulfilling the energy needs of two and a half million households.

Turkey is currently ranked second out of 43 countries across Europe with 32,130MW of total installed hydropower capacity. In 2022, the IHA said that Turkey was also one of the top five European countries according to added capacity and was third with 558MW of hydropower. Globally, it was also ranked ninth out of 35 countries.


Brazil is listed second among the world’s top 20 hydropower producers, and in 2022 had a total installed capacity of 110GW. It is the highest-ranked country across South America and in 2022 was in third place behind Colombia and Chile with 332MW of newly added hydropower capacity through the commissioning of over 15 hydropower plants, the largest of which was the 141.9MW Sao Roque plant. However, according to the IHA, due to socio-environmental considerations, feasible exploitation is reduced to around 68GW, highlighting the necessity of a sustainable approach in balancing power generation with ecological conservation. This includes the use of less invasive run-of-river systems, comprehensive socio-environmental impact assessments, and ensuring enhanced community participation in decision-making processes.

Itaipu Binancional has also paid the last of its construction debt for the 14GW Itaipu hydroelectric plant on the Paraná River between Brazil and Paraguay, bringing an almost 50-year financial commitment to build the bi-national project to an end.

With a production that has already exceeded 2910 million MWh since the start of operations in 1984, Itaipu has met the energy requirements of both the Paraguayan and Brazilian systems. It has also helped promote the establishment of new industries and aided the development of the cities that are in its area of direct influence. In total, Itaipu Binacional covers an average of 8.4% of Brazilian and 85.6% of Paraguayan electricity consumption.

The Itaipu project is currently undergoing a major technological upgrade, which is being carried out by a consortium led by GE Renewable Energy’s hydropower business. It includes equipment and systems of all 20 power generating units as well as the improvement of the hydropower plant`s measurement, protection, control, regulation and monitoring systems.


There has been a great deal of modernisation to increase capacity at existing hydropower projects across Russia. The Volzhskaya hydropower project increased by 63MW, the Irkutsk hydropower project increased by roughly 25MW and the Votkinskaya hydropower project increased by 15MW. In total refurbishments increased Russian hydropower capacity by nearly 145MW in 2022. It was also announced that to increase its renewable energy mix, approximately 7000MW of new hydropower projects will be constructed, in addition to plans to commission 128MW of small hydropower projects by 2025.

In 2022, Russia was the fifth top country to add capacity (145MW) in South and Central Asia and was ranked first across the region with 55,819MW of total installed hydropower capacity. Globally Russia was fifth in the top 20 list of hydropower producers for 2022, and 18th by added capacity.


India was second in the list of top five countries to add capacity across South and Central Asia in 2022 and was second behind Russia with 51,786MW of total installed hydropower. Globally, India lies in 13th place with added hydropower in 2022 due to approximately 434MW of new capacity, with one of the largest projects being the 180MW run-of-river Bajoli Holi in Himachal Pradesh. The country also saw a tremendous increase in generation due to the high increase in monsoon rains. The 1.5GW Nathpa Jhakri hydropower station set the highest single-day generation record in July 2022.

India also announced plans to develop two large-scale pumped storage projects. The 1440MW Gandhisagar project will use an existing reservoir and have an energy storage capacity of 10GWh. While in the Maharashtra state, JSW Neo Energy announced it will develop a 960MW pumped storage scheme. Indian hydropower company NHPC Limited also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Maharashtra to collaborate on the development of four pumped storage projects, with a combined capacity of 7350MW. The projects – Kalu (1150MW), Savitri (2250MW), Jalond (2400MW), and Kengadi (1550MW), aim to harness the potential of renewable energy sources in Maharashtra.

The primary objective of the MoU is to leverage pumped storage projects as energy storage solutions, in line with India`s national goal of achieving 500GW of renewable energy by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2070. By combining the capabilities of NHPC and the expertise of the Maharashtra government, the partnership aims to contribute to the country`s energy transition efforts and promote a greener and more sustainable future.


China leads the world with 23,811MW of added capacity in 2022 and with 415GWh of total installed hydropower.  It added over 15GW to its conventional hydropower capacity and a further 8.7GW of pumped storage. The country’s mid to long-term plans for pumped storage development up to 2035 would see an installed capacity of at least 62GW in 2025, and around 120GW in 2030, from the present 44.7GW.

Other news includes the 16GW Baihetan hydropower station, now the second largest hydropower project in the world in terms of total installed capacity, which will be fully operational in December 2022. While Yalong Hydropower is busy building a 1GW solar park 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 IHA also recently led a delegation to China to highlight the crucial role sustainable hydropower will play in the country’s clean energy transition. IHA President Roger Gill said the organisation stands with its “Chinese members in their efforts to support the world’s clean energy transition”, while IHA Chief Executive Eddie Rich described the country’s progress on hydropower as “mind-boggling”. He added that IHA wants to “supercharge global awareness of how China is building its energy transition and economic development on the bedrock of hydropower”.

“China is leading the way in hydropower development worldwide and is the only country keeping pace with capacity additions required to meet net zero targets,” Erik Solheim, IHA Board member and former UN Under Secretary General, said. He added that IHA’s delegation to China was delighted to engage with key hydropower leaders as in today’s geopolitical context, “organisations like IHA are needed more than ever to build bridges between countries on areas of common global interest”

South Africa

Across Africa, South Africa is in third place with 3600MW of total installed hydropower capacity. In May 2023, Lesotho and South Africa celebrated a significant milestone as construction officially commenced on the main water transfer works for Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). The works include the Polihali concrete-faced rockfill dam that will create a reservoir across the valleys and tributaries of the Senqu, Khubelu, Mokhotlong, Moremoholo, and Sehong-hong rivers, covering an area of 5053 hectares. The dam will include a spillway, a compensation outlet structure, and a mini-hydropower station.

The Polihali transfer tunnel will transport water from the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir using gravity. From Katse, the water will be delivered through a tunnel to the `Muela Hydropower Station, constructed during Phase I, and then channelled to the Ash River outfall outside Clarence in the Free State, ultimately supplying water to Gauteng.

Construction of Polihali dam and tunnel is expected to take about five years, with water transfer operations scheduled to start in 2028. The Oxbow Hydropower Scheme, an integral part of Phase II, will begin generating power in 2029.

Polihali reservoir will add 2325Mm3 of storage capacity to the LHWP, increasing the annual water supply rate from 78Mm3 to 1270Mm3 and will help to meet South Africa`s growing water needs. Additionally, the increased water flow will enhance power generation within Lesotho, reducing the country`s reliance on electricity imports. Phase II builds upon the success of Phase I, which was completed in 2003.

Also in South Africa, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has invited interested parties to submit pre-applications for water use authorisations to generate hydropower. In an effort to contribute to the power grid with renewable energy and tackle the country’s power crisis, the DWS has revised its hydropower policy to enable the utilisation of its infrastructure and water resources for renewable energy generation.

“The policy empowers DWS to remain within its mandate while supporting the much-needed investment in renewable energy generation in the country. We have a duty as a department to ensure that the nation`s water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled as stipulated in the National Water Act,” said DWS Director-General, Dr Sean Phillips.

The DWS says it will support the development of hydropower as part of both social and economic development within the context of water scarcity and water infrastructure challenges without compromising sustainable protection of water resources and water and sanitation services provisions. The types of hydropower technologies that can be applied for include impoundment, river diversion or run-of-river, pumped storage and floating or kinetic turbines.

Once the decision has been made, DWS will grant a licence for hydropower generation that will last for a maximum of 40 years. Licence conditions specify that construction should start within the stipulated time frame following its issuance. The department will not provide any financial support to the applicants during application, construction, operations and maintenance, nor be involved in any of the Eskom processes or own any electricity production.

This article first appeared in International Water Power magazine.