The New Frontier of Hydropower Sustainability: Planning at the System Scale

Gill, Roger;
Opperman, Jeff;
Harrison, David
Nov 2013
The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region is experiencing dynamic growth and requires large investments in electrical infrastructure. Hydropower is a major component of the region's energy supply and will provide a significant proportion of future energy growth. A 2012 high-level workshop co-organized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) concluded that meeting expectations for growth of the hydropower sector will pose several challenges to governments, developers, financial institutions, civil society and other stakeholders. Many of these challenges concern the need for hydropower projects to meet evolving expectations for sustainability, defined here as energy development that is consistent with maintaining a broad spectrum of benefits and values from river systems. Considerable progress has been made on the sustainability of individual hydropower projects, but this will not be sufficient to address the complex issues posed by multiple hydropower developments across a river basin or region. Sustainable hydropower development also requires system-scale planning, development and management; this is the 'next frontier' in hydropower sustainability. 'System' in this regard can refer to any level beyond individual projects that is the subject of a planning effort, be it a river basin, region, country, or interconnected grid. The document presents an overview of the hydropower planning challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean, and then it presents the elements and experiences of a system planning approach for hydropower and finally, a conceptual basis and broad applications for system optimization.