Rightly renowned for its longevity, hydropower’s deserved reputation is in no small way based on its many, many years of unwavering and ever reliable service. It therefore seems highly appropriate to recognize another provider of unwavering service over many years, our regular contributor James Gordon. A consultant engineer, Jim has provided our “Lessons Learned” departments for the past 17 years, based on his extensive industry experience. Conceived following a chance conversation with former chief editor Carl Vansant, these columns have shed much-needed light on the challenges faced by hydro plant operators and on the potential solutions and strategies that can be adopted to overcome them. Indeed, Jim’s role has been much like hydroelectricity itself — illuminating. On behalf of all here at HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide, I’d like to extend our personal thanks to Jim for his invaluable contributions spanning the past decade and more.
China’s hydro market maker
While it’s great to celebrate hydropower’s achievements over the years, there is the issue of new development, too. This is a theme highlighted in this edition, with insights into key markets from Voith Hydro Holding president and chief executive officer Roland Münch. He notes that the potential for hydro development remains vast — for example, in Asia there are about 1,750 GW of technically feasible resources and, within that, China truly stands out. Along the Yangtze River alone, plants with a capacity of more than 70 GW are planned, under construction or already completed. And, while the country has 250 GW of installed hydro capacity, there is room for a total of 466 GW.
As well as a booming domestic market, China is also a key player in financing and building hydroelectric infrastructure right across southeast Asia. Between 2006 and 2011, Chinese investors — such as the state-owned enterprises Export Import Bank of China and China Development Bank — financed 46% of all hydroelectricity capacity additions in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, according to the U.S.’s Energy Information Administration. Furthermore, China invested more than $6.1 billion in financing 2,729 MW of new capacity over the same period, while the same investors mentioned above made investments representing 6% of the total global hydroelectric capacity currently under construction. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the most powerful turbine-generator ever built by Voith Hydro has entered service in the Chinese hydropower plant Xiluodu.
Perhaps also, while we rightly celebrate those achievements of the past that are still producing benefits for the people of today, we’re looking to the future of hydropower too, and the benefits it will bring tomorrow.