Hydroelectric: the green energy that beat Covid-19

It is the largest source of clean energy in the world, an incredible resource that comes from nature and has been harnessed for the service of man. It is also the most dependable, as demonstrated in India during Covid-19 on April 5, when the traditional energy grid collapsed from a plunge in demand after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for Indians to switch off their lights to express solidarity. Hydroelectric power kept the country from suffering a general blackout.

Today installed capacity of hydroelectric plants globally has reached 1,300 GW,  according to the International Hydropower Association, but in order to meet global climate change targets the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says in its latest Global Renewables Outlook 2020 that hydro production must increase by 60% by 2050.

This necessary increase will play a significant role in meeting the demand for clean energy and in terms of employment and growth. To reach these levels of production, IRENA calculates that investments of $1.7 trillion are needed, which would create 600,000 jobs.

“For the energy sector as a whole, the Covid-19 crisis has caused unprecedented volatility and uncertainty,” said the International Hydropower Association in the forward to its 2020 Hydropower Status Report. “Electricity demand and prices have plunged by up to 20% in some markets. The sector is undergoing a huge involuntary transformation which can be shaped for a more sustainable future. Policy makers and planners need to initiate new projects now, due to the longer planning cycles for hydropower construction.”

Innovation and sustainability: the positive effect of hydropower during Covid- 19 

The International Hydropower Association dedicates a section of the 2020 Hydropower Status Report to the impact that the Covid-19 has had on the industry. According to a management survey carried out between March and April among its members, confidence in the future prospects of hydropower across the sector has dropped since the start of the pandemic — from 77% in 2018 saying they see their revenues growing over the next one to three years to 56% today. This figure, however, reflects this particular historical moment impacting industrial sectors across the board, which have all suffered losses and declines in business confidence sentiment.  During this difficult period, hydroelectric power  helped  avoid the collapse of the traditional energy network in several different countries, demonstrating the absolute reliability of clean energy derived from green natural resources.

This is what happened in India, but there are other examples where the traditional system would not have withstood the increase in energy demand linked to the crisis.

For this reason, the International Hydropower Association confirms that the sector’s continued growth, stealing significant market share from traditional and polluting energy sources.

According to the survey, the strength of the sector lies in its sustainability.

The International Hydropower Association calculates that if the hydroelectric plants currently operating were replaced by burning coal, 4 billion tons more of polluting gases would be emitted into the atmosphere every year than currently.

Hydroelectric plants: the importance of large infrastructures

The leadership of hydropower among sustainable energy sources can be summed up by one number: 71% of all renewable electricity worldwide is represented by hydropower.

And considering that the energy sector as a whole is still responsible for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear just how strategic this type of clean energy is to protect the environment and to fuel an alternative form of development.

Consider this statistic from the United Nations: today in the world 840 million people still do not have access to electricity. This sheds a harsh light on the energy gap, but also illuminates the positive role that hydroelectric energy can play in the coming years.

Webuild’s role as hydroelectric industry leader

From the large Ethiopian dams built on the Omo River and the Nile, to the hydroelectric plants in South America, from the power plants in Malaysia to Australia’s pumping infrastructure, the Webuild Group has been one of the world leaders in the hydro sector for years.

This leadership has roots in the past, and in recent years has been strengthened thanks to record-breaking projects such as Snowy 2.0, the largest hydroelectric plant in the history of Australia. Snowy 2.0 (an expansion of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme) involves the construction of a series of wells and tunnels to be flanked by the construction of an underground power plant, capable of supplying energy for 200 million LED light bulbs. Many countries today have started these sort of infrastructure projects to accelerate the transition towards sustainable energy – modern projects capable of producing energy according to demand. and designed to use water as an engine to move the large turbines of power plants. In practice, clean energy.

Looking at them as a whole, the hydro sector works carried out by Webuild reach an installed power of 52,900 MW, providing clean energy to tens of millions of people every day. And infrastructure still under construction (in Tajikistan as in Australia) will ensure a reduction of harmful emissions equal to 14.5 million tons CO2 per year.

Webuild is making a contribution to the evolution of the hydroelectric sector, a precious resource for an economy that starts running again in the name of a sustainable development.