Singapore, Sept 22 (The Street Press) – New data reveals that hydropower generation in Asia is declining at its quickest rate in decades, mainly due to significant reductions in China and India. This decline is causing power regulators to grapple with fluctuating electricity demand and unpredictable weather patterns, leading to a greater dependence on fossil fuels.
These two nations, responsible for approximately 75% of Asia’s electricity production and the majority of its emissions, are also turning to renewable energy sources to some extent. This shift aims to compensate for the reduced hydropower output and meet the increasing electricity demand.
In recent years, major Asian economies have grappled with power shortages due to extreme weather conditions. These include intense heat and reduced rainfall in northern China and Vietnam, as well as in eastern and northern India.
To address these shortages, there has been an increased reliance on polluting fuels like coal to meet surges in electricity demand, highlighting the difficulties in reducing emissions. According to data from the energy think tank Ember, hydropower output in Asia declined by 17.9% over the seven months leading up to July, while fossil fuel-based power generation increased by 4.5%.
Hydroelectricity production in China saw its steepest decline in over three decades, dropping by 15.9% over the eight months ending in August, as per an analysis of data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
Meanwhile, in India, hydropower generation experienced a significant 6.2% decrease during the same eight-month period, marking the most substantial decline since 2016. Its contribution to the overall power output dwindled to 9.2%, the lowest recorded in at least 19 years, based on a government data analysis.
To compensate for the decreased hydropower production and rising electricity demands, China increased fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 6.1% over the eight months until August, while India boosted its fossil fuel-fired power output by 12.4%, as indicated by the data.
Renewable energy output saw growth as well, with China experiencing a 22% increase and India an 18% rise during the same period. However, it’s important to note that these percentages are from a smaller starting point.
In addition to China and India, other major Asian economies such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia also witnessed declines in hydropower output due to drier weather, according to data from Ember and the International Energy Agency.
In Vietnam, hydropower’s contribution to the power output declined by over 10 percentage points up to July, while coal’s share increased by a similar amount, according to data from Ember. Some of the reductions in hydropower output were intentional, aimed at conserving water resources and altering supply patterns.
Data from Ember indicates that power generation from wind and solar sources in Asia increased by 21% in the seven months leading up to July, raising their contribution to overall output from 11.5% to 13.5%, compared to the previous year.
However, unlike hydropower, wind power can be challenging to forecast and control due to its dependence on local weather conditions. Additionally, the absence of solar power during nighttime exacerbates energy shortfalls in countries like India.
India, despite experiencing record demand, managed to reduce daytime power outages to nearly zero this year, largely thanks to its long-term investment in renewable energy. Nevertheless, it had to resort to importing more expensive natural gas to alleviate pressure on its coal power infrastructure.