Hydropower is the leading source of renewable energy. It provides more than 97% of all electricity generated by renewable sources. Other sources including solar, geothermal, wind, and biomass account for less than 3% of renewable electricity production. Renewable Energy is high on the agenda of the EU. In March 2007, the Heads of States of the 27 member countries of the European Union adopted a binding target of 20% renewable energy from final energy consumption by 2020. In December 2008, the European Parliament has adopted the Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable energy sources that provides the legislative framework for implementing the binding 20% RES target. The Directive foresees the obligation for Member States (MS) to develop and submit by 30 June 2010 to the European Commission national Renewable Energy Actions Plans (RAPs) outlining how to achieve their binding Renewable Energy Sources (RES) target by 2020 with concrete measures in the electricity, heating and cooling and biofuels sectors.
- Hydropower is clean. It prevents the burning of 83 billion liters of oil or 120 million tons of coal each year.
- Hydropower does not produce greenhouse gasses or other air pollution.
- Hydropower leaves behind no waste.
Hydropower is the most efficient way to generate electricity. Modern hydro turbines can convert as much as 90% of the available energy into electricity. The best fossil fuel plants are only about 50% efficient. In the U.S., hydropower is produced for an average of 0.85 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh). This is about 50% the cost of nuclear, 40% the cost of fossil fuel, and 25% the cost of using natural gas.
New Zealand uses hydropower for 75% of its electricity.
Hydropower can come “on line” quickly to meet rapid increases in electric demand and respond to emergency energy needs.