The USGS Water Science School
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Representatives of more than 170 countries reached consensus at the Top World Conference on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg (2002), and at the 3rd World Forum on Water, in Kyoto (2003): all hydroelectric generation is renewable and merits international support. Read, below, the ten reasons leading them to this conclusion.
1. Hydroelectricity is a renewable energy source.
Hydroelectricity uses the energy of running water, without reducing its quantity, to produce electricity. Therefore, all hydroelectric developments, of small or large size, whether run of the river or of accumulated storage, fit the concept of renewable energy.
2. Hydroelectricity makes it feasible to utilize other renewable sources.
Hydroelectric power plants with accumulation reservoirs offer incomparable operational flexibility, since they can immediately respond to fluctuations in the demand for electricity. The flexibility and storage capacity of hydroelectric power plants make them more efficient and economical in supporting the use of intermittent sources of renewable energy, such as solar energy or Aeolian energy.
3. Hydroelectricity promotes guaranteed energy and price stability.
River water is a domestic resource which, contrary to fuel or natural gas, is not subject to market fluctuations. In addition to this, it is the only large renewable source of electricity and its cost-benefit ratio, efficiency, flexibility and reliability assist in optimizing the use of thermal power plants.
4. Hydroelectricity contributes to the storage of drinking water.
Hydroelectric power plant reservoirs collect rainwater, which can then be used for consumption or for irrigation. In storing water, they protect the water tables against depletion and reduce our vulnerability to floods and droughts.
5. Hydroelectricity increases the stability and reliability of electricity systems.
The operation of electricity systems depends on rapid and flexible generation sources to meet peak demands, maintain the system voltage levels, and quickly re-establish supply after a blackout. Energy generated by hydroelectric installations can be injected into the electricity system faster than that of any other energy source. The capacity of hydroelectric systems to reach maximum production from zero in a rapid and foreseeable manner makes them exceptionally appropriate for addressing alterations in the consumption and providing ancillary services to the electricity system, thus maintaining the balance between the electricity supply and demand.
6. Hydroelectricity helps fight climate changes.
The hydroelectric life cycle produces very small amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG). In emitting less GHG than power plants driven by gas, coal or oil, hydroelectricity can help retard global warming. Although only 33% of the available hydroelectric potential has been developed, today hydroelectricity prevents the emission of GHG corresponding to the burning of 4.4 million barrels of petroleum per day worldwide.
7. Hydroelectricity improves the air we breathe.
Hydroelectric power plants don't release pollutants into the air. They very frequently substitute the generation from fossil fuels, thus reducing acid rain and smog. In addition to this, hydroelectric developments don't generate toxic by-products.
8. Hydroelectricity offers a significant contribution to development.
Hydroelectric installations bring electricity, highways, industry and commerce to communities, thus developing the economy, expanding access to health and education, and improving the quality of life. Hydroelectricity is a technology that has been known and proven for more than a century. Its impacts are well understood and manageable through measures for mitigating and compensating the damages. It offers a vast potential and is available where development is most necessary.
9. Hydroelectricity means clean and cheap energy for today and for tomorrow.
With an average lifetime of 50 to 100 years, hydroelectric developments are long-term investments that can benefit various generations. They can be easily upgraded to incorporate more recent technologies and have very low operating and maintenance costs.
10. Hydroelectricity is a fundamental instrument for sustainable development.
Hydroelectric enterprises that are developed and operated in a manner that is economically viable, environmentally sensible and socially responsible represent the best concept of sustainable development. That means, "development that today addresses people's needs without compromising the capacity of future generations for addressing their own needs" (World Commission on the Environment and Development, 1987).
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