As the hydroelectric dam industry tries to reposition itself as a climate change solution, more and more evidence shows that climate change actually undermines the case for hydro dams.
Gone are the days when hydropower was considered the predominant engine of the world economy, leading a tenfold increase in global energy production over the twentieth century. Now its advocates portray it as a complement to wind and solar energy, a necessary source of steady output to balance wind and solar’s intermittent generation — and therefore a key component in the battle to limit climate change.
One reason for the industry’s shift in strategy is that newly installed global capacity in hydropower lags far behind new wind and solar capacity, and declined each year from 2013 to 2019, with only a slight uptick in 2020. Another reason is that if hydropower is accepted as a tool for combating climate change, hydro developers would have a better chance of qualifying for financial support from governments and international institutions — all possessing funds they need for their pricey projects. With the ongoing United Nations conference on climate change in Glasgow in mind, Eddie Rich, chief executive officer of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), said recently that because of hydropower’s purported climate change-fighting attributes, his group seeks “appropriate support in the form of tax relief or concessional loans to ensure projects are bankable, as well as streamlining the approval process.”