The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has partnered with the International Hydropower Association (IHA) to advance shared goals of promoting sustainable hydropower development around the world.

The two industry organisations will work together to accelerate financing and deployment of the energy source, which is a significant contributor to the global renewable portfolio.

Hydropower is the world’s single-largest source of renewable energy, currently contributing more than half of the world’s installed capacity, and directly employing around two million people.

As the low-carbon transition of energy systems gathers pace, hydropower projects will play an important role in providing clean storage and grid flexibility services to support a growing fleet of intermittent renewables.

“While hydropower will continue to play an essential role in global electricity, hydropower’s flexibility and storage capabilities are also important to complement variable renewables such as wind and solar,” said IHA chief executive Eddie Rich.

“Hydropower acts as an enabler of higher shares of variable renewable energy in future energy systems.”


Investment in sustainable hydropower development can support post-pandemic economic recovery plans

The tie-up will involve future policy and market initiatives aimed at rewarding these grid-balancing services, as well as facilitating public-private dialogue, strengthening international cooperation and promoting sustainable hydropower through knowledge-sharing programmes.

A recent analysis from IRENA suggests a 150% increase in annual sustainable hydropower investments – from $22bn to $55bn – through to the end of this decade would support the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and accelerate the global energy transition.

IRENA director general Francesco La Camera added: “IRENA’s Global Renewables Outlook estimates that an additional 850 gigawatts (GW) of hydropower is required by 2050 for the world to stay on a climate-safe track in line with the Paris Agreement.

“There is therefore an urgent need to boost sustainable hydropower. The Covid-19 crisis has shown beyond doubt the unique flexibility and resilience provided by hydropower compared with other energy sources.”

As part of the agreement, IRENA will support the IHA’s International Forum on Pumped Hydropower Storage – a government-led multi-stakeholder platform created in partnership with the US Department of Energy that aims to “shape and enhance the role of pumped storage hydropower in future power systems”.

Pumped storage hydropower is a low-cost and mature, long-duration energy storage technology that represents more than 90% of the world’s grid-scale energy storage.