Hydroelectric Energy Facts
Pollution-free, but with a cost
In developing countries, local populations tend to benefit less from hydropower as the generated electricity is often exported to urban regions or outside the country.
Reducing environmental impactsOne low-impact option is to improve existing hydropower stations and make them more efficient.
The process of retrofitting old stations with modern equipment helps ageing dams produce more electricity. Typical investments include:
- replacing turbines and generators
- adding machines to facilitate periods of high demand
- increasing storage capacity by raising the height of the dam
WWF estimates that it may be possible to develop 30% of the economically feasible small-scale hydropower capacity in most river basins or nations without unacceptable impacts.
Additionally, 250GW of large-scale and 20GW of medium-scale hydropower potential could be developed with acceptable impacts, particularly in the least developed parts of the world, such as in Africa.
When constructing new hydropower projects, WWF advocates social and environmental safeguards, which are based on the guidelines of the World Commission on Dams. This includes comprehensive planning to determine energy needs and a thorough options assessment, which evaluates all alternatives.
Hydroelectric power plants generate about 16% of the world's electricity.