The World Bank Group (WBG) believes that its mission to help eliminate poverty and enable a more equitable sharing of prosperity cannot be achieved without universal access to electricity.
Hydropower is the world’s largest source of renewable energy, accounting for almost a fifth of global electricity. Harnessing water responsibly can help get electricity to millions of people. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the energy access deficit is greatest, less than 10% of hydropower potential has been tapped. That represents 400 GW of undeveloped power – enough to quadruple the continent’s existing capacity.
By 2025, 2.4 billion people will be living in countries without enough water to meet their needs. Water security is threatened by mismanagement of water resources and changes in weather patterns due to climate change, as well as increasing demand. Floods and drought cost between 5 – 10% of GDP annually in some of the poorest countries, with consequences that linger for many years. Multipurpose hydropower projects can improve local water resource management, and increase water security, as well as offering irrigation and flood management services. Hydropower projects can therefore make important contributions to both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
While hydropower development offers great opportunities, it also comes with complex challenges and risks that vary significantly by the type, place, and scale of projects. Factors such as resettlement of communities, flooding of large areas of land, and significant changes to river ecosystems must be carefully considered and mitigated. While it is known that lakes and reservoirs emit varying amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs), their net emissions are usually much lower than those from fossil fuel based sources of electricity. Today, hydropower reduces annual global emissions by some 2.8 billion tons of CO2 equivalent every year. The WBG will continue to support well-designed and implemented hydropower projects of all sizes for both local development and climate mitigation reasons. The WBG has become more active and experienced in large and smaller hydro projects in the past decade, with due attention to environmental and social impact.
Last Updated: Apr 10, 2017