The theoretical size of the worldwide hydro power
is about four times greater than that which has been exploited at
this time. The actual amount of electricity which will ever be generated
by hydro power will be much less than the theoretical potential.
This is due to the environmental concerns outlined above, and economic
constraints. Much of the remaining hydro potential in the world
exists in the developing countries of Africa and Asia. Harnessing
this resource would require billions of dollars, because hydro-electric
facilities generally have very high construction costs.
In the past, the World Bank has spent billions of foreign aid dollars
on huge hydro-electric projects in the third world. Opposition to
hydro power from environmentalists and native people, as well as
new environmental assessments at the World Bank will restrict the
amount of money spent on hydro-electric power construction in the
developing countries of the world. In North-America and Europe,
a large percentage of hydro power potential has already been developed.
Public opposition to large hydro schemes will probably result in
very little new development of big dams and reservoirs. Small scale
and low head hydro capacity will probably increase in the future
as research on low head turbines, and standardized turbine production,
lowers the costs of hydro-electric power at sites with low heads.
New computerized control systems and improved turbines may allow
more electricity to be generated from existing facilities in the
future. As well, many small hydro electric sites were abandoned
in the 1950's and 60's when the price of oil and coal was very low,
and their environmental impacts unrealized. Increased fuel prices
in the future could result in these facilities being refurbished.
Low fossil fuel prices continue to constrain development of the
world's renewable energy sources. While the costs of installing
and generating electricity with renewable resources continue to
decline and technological advances improve generating efficiencies.
The potential for growth of hydroelectricity and other renewable
sources is higher in parts of the developing world. Renewables are
projected to grow by almost 5 percent annually in developing Asia
between 1995 and 2015, for the most part because large-scale hydroelectricity
projects are still being constructed there. On the other hand, the
particularly strong annual growth of renewables in India almost
7 percent per year will result from increased use of alternative
energy sources, including primarily wind, some photovoltaic, and
some hydro-electric power development.
As in Western Europe, India's government programs and incentives
for installing renewables have resulted in strong growth. Further,
there are signs that some large energy companies, such as Enron
Corporation, Royal Dutch/Shell, and British Petroleum (BP), are
expanding their interest in renewables. In 1997 Enron Corporation
acquired the American wind power developer, Zond Corporation, and
German wind turbine manufacturer, Tacke Windtechnik GmbH. BP announced
plans to increase its solar technology sales to $1 billion within
10 years, including plans to invest $6.5 million (U.S.) in its solar
photovoltaic cell production plant in Madrid, Spain, in an effort
to double production of solar photovoltaic cells. BP also pledged
to reduce the company's greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent relative
to 1990 levels. Royal Dutch/Shell announced a similar objective
to be achieved by 2002.