ICEM led a session exploring the potential of renewable energy in the Lower Mekong Basin at the recent 3rd Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy (19-21 November 2013, Hanoi).
The key areas of focus were:
- Whether small-scale and grid-connected renewables have the potential to substitute or complement the rapid rollout of large-scale hydropower in the Mekong;
- The technical potential for alternative technologies in the region, and the ‘gap’ that exists between the planned renewable energy expansion and the large technical potential that remains untapped; and
- The policies needed to promote regional growth in renewable energy supply.
Renewables and hydropower: complements or substitutes?
The electricity sector is the single largest source of GHG emissions. Proponents of large hydropower projects (i.e. with a capacity greater than 30MW) rightly emphasise low emissions relative to other sources of electricity. At the same time large hydropower remains controversial in the region due to significant direct environmental and social impacts. Concerns relating to both global and local environmental impacts have lead to calls for a more serious consideration of renewables as a low carbon alternative to large hydropower, but this begs the question as to the roles played by these very different technologies, and the relationship between them in electricity systems.
The lion’s share of power in lower Mekong basin countries currently comes from gas and large-scale hydropower. Only a small fraction – around 5% – is supplied by other renewables such as wind, solar, biogas and smaller-scale hydropower. But this modest beginning will form the basis for exponential growth. Current power development plans in the basin envisage five-fold renewable electricity generation grow from an estimated 3.5GW in 2010 to 15.5GW or 9% by 2025. Large-scale hydropower is also set to double from 18.2GW to 36GW. Unlike […]