How Water Powers The World

Data from BP and Ember compiled by Our World in Data shows how water powers the world, with Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular, primarily relying on water power.

How Water Powers The World 1

The two power sources that have gained popularity since the turn of the century, solar and wind, are frequently the only ones mentioned when discussing the importance and viability of renewable energy.

Despite the fact that even so-called developed countries like Norway, Austria, and Canada generate sizable portions of their electricity through hydropower plants, hydropower and its significance in the generation of electricity in other countries are frequently overlooked.

However, based on data from BP and Ember compiled by Our World in Data, Statista’s Florian Zandt demonstrates in the infographic below that Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular, primarily rely on water power.

How Water Powers The World 2

In 2020, hydropower produced almost all of the electricity in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, or Ethiopia. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which would be the largest dam on the continent when completed, is a project that the latter started building in 2011.

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Due in large part to the 10.2 gigawatt installed capacity of the Guri dam, water power made up 82 percent of Venezuela’s electricity mix in the southern half of the Americas. With corresponding shares of 78, 71, and 66 percent, Ecuador, Guinea, Costa Rica, and Panama similarly predominantly rely on hydropower for electricity.

When considering the entire energy mix, fossil fuels with high emissions take priority over hydropower. According to Our World in Data, it only represented a share of seven percent of the global market in 2019. The strong reliance on oil and gas for transport and heating makes it unlikely that this age-old power source will compete in the production of primary energy. There are other drawbacks to using hydroelectric dams for power generation. Rivers that are funneled into reservoirs may lose some of their habitats, the ecosystems of rivers may be thrown out of balance, and people who depend on the rivers may need to find new homes.

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