Hydropower is widely regarded as the time-honored conventional power source for the generation of electricity. It never seems to fade into the background, with 2020 seeing the installation of the Three Gorges Dam that feeds off the Chinese Yangtze river, ten years after its completed construction. Boasting two decades of worktime and over US $75 billion in financial costs, this hydropower plant stands tall as the most expensive project embarked on throughout history.
For good reason too, the generators in this plant yields 18GW of power – a figure that equals the total energy proceeds from the nuclear power sector of China. Of course, there is a physical limitation with hydropower since plausible sites for energy production don’t exist in abundance. Still, it accounts for 0.5 of total electricity generated in the world on a scale of 10. Especially with countries like Norway, Paraguay and Venezuela relying on hydropower for 80% of its total electricity capacity.
One power source that has the potential to grow larger is thermal energy through solar channels which is already widely used for residential and industrial applications, even in the most remote locations. After all, those are the places that usually have the best conditions to accommodate the obvious limitation of solar energy sources, which is the absence of sunlight. Record figures have been reached in Algeria, with Solar power providing 10% of the total grid composition and El Salvador going a bit further to exploit her geothermal conditions to generate 15% of her electricity capacity through geothermal power.
The Middle East understandably relies on fossil fuels for 90% of its power, other countries look closer to the surface for power like the 70% that serves Latin America through diverse renewable energy sources while the same figure represents the amount that Russia depends on her nuclear plants for energy.
However, these alternative energy sources mostly depend on the prevailing environmental conditions, with wind, geothermal, solar and hydroelectric power not possible in every part of the planet. For instance, while Norway can attest to the efficiency of hydropower since they rely on hydropower for 90% of their grid, the expanse of the Saharan countries cannot plan on harnessing hydropower to supply even up to 1% of their total energy. In the same vein, while Denmark can harness its windy conditions to generate 20% of her total power capacity from wind energy, while Singapore has close to zero potential for using wind-based energy sources.
Fascinatingly, from the global perspective, renewable resources account for one-fifth of electricity generation, regardless of the local environmental conditions. 5% of which is from hydropower as said earlier, with wind and solar power sources following that trail with 5% each, tidal and geothermal power amounting for a notch below 1%, and biofuel resources rounding up the division. Both the natural and artificial-sourced biofuels are expected to do better than all other traditional renewable energy sources, and they are responding accordingly, by being the fastest growing energy sector. Growing from almost nothing to 5% in 2020.
So, we hold out in somber expectation that Africa and South Asia, where electrification has not been felt, will soon feel the effect of growing energy capacities and far-reaching grids that spread violently, almost reaching fever pitch.