Hydropower is the most flexible and consistent of the renewable energy resources, capable of meeting base load electricity requirements as well as, with pumped storage technology, meeting peak and unexpected demand due to shortages or the use of intermittent power sources. It has been conservatively estimated that only a third of the total world hydropower capacity has been developed, with most of this development and growth occurring in Europe.

At the end of 2008, over 160 countries had hydropower resources capacity, with a total capacity of 874 GW across 11,000 hydropower stations. The leading generating countries were China, Canada, Brazil and the USA respectively, although it is worth noting that Norway and India both have significant hydropower generation, particularly relative to their size and total electricity supply.

Hydropower capacity is often categorised as ‘gross theoretical capacity’, the capacity of hydropower generation possible if all natural water flows contained as many 100% efficient turbines as possible; ‘technically exploitable capacity’, the amount of gross theoretical capacity possible within the limits of current technology; and ‘economically exploitable capacity’, the capacity possible within the constraints of current technology and local economic conditions.

There are three types of hydropower stations: ‘run of river’, where the electricity is generated through the flow of a river’; ‘reservoir’, where power is  generated through the release of stored water; and ‘pumped storage’, where stored water is recycled by pumping it back up to a higher reservoir in order to be released again.

Global Hydropower installed capacity

Installed capacity1.31TW

Hydropower installed capacity by region

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Top hydropower producing countries

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Hydropower installed capacity by region

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