Hydroelectricity is often overlooked in discussions of renewable energy sources, despite being the world’s largest source of non-fossil-fuel power. But that may be changing.
According to the British Petroleum’s 2014 Statistical Review of World Energy, global usage of hydroelectricity has been increasing over the last decade. China tops the list of countries that have invested in new hydropower, with an almost five percent increase from 2012 to 2013.
The benefits are obvious: The cost of hydroelectricity is fairly low, just three to five U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to around 13 cents per kilowatt hour for conventionally-produced electricity. Hydroelectric plants also emit far less carbon dioxide than their fossil fuel counterparts.
Once a plant is constructed, it will produce no direct waste. Hydroelectricity is an easily scaled resource — the amount of energy produced can quickly be increased to match a spike in demand. It’s also obviously green – the only pollution involved is when a plant is being constructed. Finally, it’s reliable; as long as there’s water in the reservoir, energy can be produced.