Hydropower is an efficient, predictable, and affordable source of energy that produces no greenhouse gases and already generates a fifth of the world's electricity - but is it an overlooked tool in the effort to meet the world's growing energy needs sustainably? That's the question we tackled last week in The Energy Collective's latest webcast with guests Kai Kölmel, Vice President for Hydro & Ocean Power in the Solar & Hydro Divison of Siemens AG, and William Rex, Lead Water Resources Specialist at the World Bank.

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In the U.S., where hydro accounts for close to 70% of electricity generated from renewable sources, most sites suitable for large conventional hydro facilities are already developed. Discussion of new renewable energy tends to focus more on wind and solar. But upgrades to existing plants and new smaller hydro plants employing modern technology may open up important opportunities to expand hydro production even in heavily developed countries, and recent projects in ocean power have demonstrated the potential for capturing the vast energy of tidal water movement offshore.

In the developing world, where 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity, the potential for nearly all types of hydro development to help drive newly booming economies without polluting the air is huge.

What can the energy community hope for - and what we should really expect - from hydro power in the short and long term quests to produce energy sustainably? Kai and William helped us to a better understanding of hydro's potential. We hope you enjoy the discussion.

Finally, Kai discussed the chart below during our talk, so we've included it here for reference. It's a handy summary of the key hydro and ocean power generation technologies, their stage of maturity, and ultimate resource potential. 

Photo Credit: Water/shutterstock