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Modeling for Small Hydropower: Policy and Technology

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
6. Water and sustainable growth
Author(s): Kendra Sharp
Gina Warren
Thomas Mosier

Kendra Sharp
Oregon State University
Gina Warren
University of Houston Law Center
Thomas Mosier
The World Bank

Keyword(s): modelling, small hydropower, policy, technology


Kendra Sharp, Oregon State University
Gina Warren, University of Houston Law Center
Thomas Mosier, The World Bank

This paper presents a robust planning methodology to identify global opportunities for new small-scale hydropower, which can provide safe and clean electricity to remote communities. Although nearly 160 countries generate electricity from some form of hydropower, accounting for approximately 16 percent of the world’s electricity generation, small hydropower only makes up a small fraction of the current generation. One reason for this is that individual small hydropower, by their nature, often do not have economies-of-scale with respect to investment relative to larger hydropower projects. The investment scale of small hydropower can be increased through packaging multiple small hydropower projects into a single investment package. Accomplishing this requires stakeholders to have accurate climate, facility, and site-specific information, including adequate laws and policies, for a target region. By incorporating law and policy implications into a state-of-the-art computer modeling package (the Hydropower Potential Assessment Tool “HPAT”), stakeholders will be in a better position to identify prime small run of the river hydropower sites within an interest area, so as to generate the most electricity with the least environmental and human impacts.

Untapped small hydropower potential exists worldwide and could deliver upwards of 173 gigawatts (GW) of new energy. This is particularly important for emerging countries where most modern utility-scale energy efficient technologies are too costly and people live in areas too remote to be serviced by the formal electricity grid. In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals ranging from ending poverty, inequities, and injustices, to addressing climate change and protecting our natural resources by 2030. Goal 7 seeks to “[e]nsure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Approximately 1.2 billion people (17% of the world’s population) live without access to electricity today and small hydropower could be one of the many ways to supply affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy to people living in more remote areas. 

This paper will provide at least one case study highlighting how to deploy HPAT in the context of a data-sparse developing country, making use of globally and locally available data to illustrate the ideal functioning of the energy and policy modeling methodology. The approach will investigate both historic distribution of hydropower potential and possible changes due to climate change, energy policy within the region, and will use a robust multi-objective optimization to identify small hydropower potential to meet the growth of electricity demand. Importantly, while some local knowledge are important, the majority of inputs to the methodology are globally available, reducing the cost of implementing HPAT for a novel area of interest. The methodology will be useful for decision and policymakers in the private and public sectors and will constitute a significant contribution to the knowledge in the energy-policy-water environment nexus.

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