While Germany's energy consumption has been stagnating for years, the global demand for energy is continually rising. The main drivers are China and India. Between 2010 and 2035, the worldwide energy consumption is expected to increase by one third.
Without the increased utilization of hydro power in large and small projects (including pumped storage systems), the global climate protection targets aimed at limiting the rise of the global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius cannot be achieved.
Hydro power has become an indispensable element in the energy mix of the future. This has been again confirmed by the International Energy Agency's (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2011. The global climate protection targets accelerate the worldwide expansion of renewable energies, primarily from wind, hydro and solar power.
According to the IEA, the application of modern renewable energies will increase three-fold by 2035 and its share in the primary energy mix will rise from 7 to 16%.
The Worldwide Hydro Power Potential
More than 80% of the world's renewable energy is generated from hydro power. Its annual growth rate is approximately 3%.
So far, only one fifth of the technically feasible hydro power potential has been utilized.
Combined, the world's energy carriers have an installed capacity of 5 000 gigawatt (GW). The possible hydro power share amounts to 3 900 GW, yet only 930 GW have been developed so far.
The distribution over the individual continents is as follows:
North America has developed 33% of the technically feasible hydro power potential, South America 20%, Africa 8%, Europe including the CIS 30%, Australia 27% and Asia 23%.
Europe, Asia and North America have the highest modernization potential for existing hydro power stations. Retrofit projects are not only a long-term guarantor of reliable power generation, but they also increase the annual electricity production. For this reason they play an important role for the sustainable and eco-friendly expansion of hydro power.
The Hydro Power Potential in Germany
In Germany, 4 350 megawatt have so far been installed from hydro power - more than twice the amount (10 040 MW) would be possible. If one considers the possible volume of electricity that could be produced by hydro power stations in Germany, the gap would even grow wider: the presently installed hydro power stations generate about 16 300 gigawatt hours of electricity per year. Yet 37 650 gigawatt hours would actually be possible.
At present, Germany also has some 30 power stations with a pump capacity of 7 GW, the storage output amounts to approximately 7 GW. Pumped storage power plants can be controlled very flexibly, they are able to react to grid fluctuations within seconds.