FutureDAMS presented two sessions at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 (Madrid, 2 – 13 December 2019). Search for #FutureDAMS on Twitter for live coverage of the events.

Building Better Dams: the Past, Present and Future of Hydropower

Wednesday 4 December, 16:00-17:00
Venue: UK Pavilion
Speakers: Judith Plummer Braeckman (CISL), Julien Harou (University of Manchester), Sanna Markkanen (CISL)

More than 3,700 large dams are planned or under construction worldwide, to service growing demands for energy, irrigation, urban water supply and flood control. This new generation of dam schemes, most of them in ‘developing countries’, has the potential to make a significant contribution towards achieving economic growth, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris climate change commitments.

However, maximising the benefits of dams – while minimising the negative social and environmental impacts – remains a great challenge. Focussing specifically on dams that are developed primarily for the purposes of hydropower generation, the speakers in this session discuss about what is known about hydropower development and finance in developing countries and look at future prospects. What and how can we learn from past experience, and to what extent is ‘learning from experience’ a central feature of decision-making about hydropower dams?

The FutureDAMS consortium led by Professor Hulme from Manchester University (www.futuredams.org) is investigating how to establish the knowledge base, tools and an approach to enable dam projects to support resilient and sustainable development in a warming world.

The role of finance in supporting sustainable development in emerging markets – focus on hydropower

5 December 18:30-20:00
Venue: EU Pavilion
Chair/Moderator: Judith Plummer Braeckman – Senior Researcher, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and FutureDAMS Research Consortium
Oscar Mendoza – Head of Business Development Iberia, Endesa Group (Enel Green Power Iberia)
Solange Ribeiro – Chief  Executive, Neoenergia
Peter Hilliges – Head of the Climate and Energy Policy Unit, KfW Development Bank
Sanna Markkanen- Researcher, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and FutureDAMS Research Consortium
Hector Pollitt – Director and Head of Modelling, Cambridge Econometrics

Hydropower has a specific role to play in the broader context of sustainable development across the world. Hydropower continues to be the largest single source of renewable electricity globally. It will play an important part in the decarbonisation of the energy grids in high and upper-middle-income countries and in improving electricity access in low and lower-middle-income countries (L-MICs). In L-MICs, large scale (>50MW) hydropower can provide large amounts of low-carbon electricity to power urban areas and industrial operations.

Investment in renewables has increased steadily during the past decade, as has the amount of added capacity as measured in GW. However, the amount of added capacity from fossil fuel sources still exceeds the added capacity from renewables, and both the total renewable capacity and the recently added capacity vary significantly, with Africa and Middle East being home to less than 10 per cent of the installed renewable electricity generation capacity. There is a pressing need to improve the availability of large-scale renewable electricity generation technologies in low-income countries, especially in Africa, to support progress towards achieving the SDGs and to ensure that electrification and the increase in the energy supply that is needed to power industrial operations in these countries will come from low-carbon sources.

In middle-income countries, high rate of economic growth together with a growing pressure to decarbonise mean that demand for renewable electricity will grow substantially in the coming decades. While much of the new capacity is coming from renewable sources, the intermittency of electricity from solar and wind can present challenges to the stability of power grids. In these countries, hydropower can perform an important function in stabilising the grids and providing peak supply in contexts where the share of the total electricity supply from intermittent renewables is growing rapidly. In combination with other renewable electricity sources, hydropower can play a key role in helping fast-growing economies develop 100% low carbon grids that are stable as well as compatible with the objective of the Paris Agreement.

The panellists in this session will explore the barriers and solutions to developing low-carbon electricity systems in low-and middle-income countries. The challenges associated with developing large energy infrastructure projects in a manner that is economically, socially, environmentally and financially sustainable will also be discussed.

Read our latest hydropower research:

“…hydropower is likely to play a key role in helping countries across the world to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to below 2oC. In this new context, it will be increasingly important to understand how to develop socially and environmentally sustainable hydropower projects, and how to finance them.”

“Climate finance investors should consider transition hydropower as a game changer for energy emissions.”


Photograph © John Englart (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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