Hydro Power

I’ve heard that Hydro Power is considered the most important source of renewable energy – what are the challenges to development?

Hydropower, or hydroelectricity, is a renewable source of energy produced by the falling or moving of water. The movement of water as it flows downstream creates kinetic energy (available energy in moving water is determined by its flow or fall) that can be converted into electricity. A hydroelectric power plant converts this energy into electricity by forcing water, often held at a dam, through a hydraulic turbine that is connected to an electricity generator. Hydropower is utilized in over 150 countries globally, accounting for nearly 16 per cent of the world’s electricity production.

  • Canada is the world’s third largest hydropower producer, generating 372 TWh/year in 2011. In fact, hydropower accounted for 62.9 per cent of Canada’s electricity production in 2011. It is one of the cleanest forms of generation in Canada and has the potential to play a significant role in addressing environmental issues, including climate change due to its negligible greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Hydropower is a renewable source of energy which uses the power of flowing water to create electricity without solid waste or depletion. Hydropower’s flexible storage capability and operational flexibility allows the facilities to automatically respond to fluctuating electricity demands. Hydropower’s storage capability supports the operation of wind and solar energy.
  • Hydropower projects face many challenges to development. Many hydropower projects in Canada are developed in remote communities, including those of Aboriginal Peoples. These hydropower projects directly affect the surrounding ecosystems, lifestyle, and activities of these communities. The development of hydropower plants will also create local physical pollution (i.e. industrial structures in natural settings) in close proximity to construction routes. There is a challenge to ensuring that industrial developments will be as minimally intrusive as possible. However, there is an opportunity to ensure that local communities reap benefits through such developments, which mainly concern an improved quality of living, employment growth, and long term revenues sustained through business developments.