Global Small Hydropower Market: China to Lead in APAC Region

Region-wise, the global small hydropower market is divided into Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, South and Central America, and the Middle East and Africa. In 2014, Asia Pacific stood out as the largest market for small hydropower in the world and held a share of 70.3%. In terms of SHP (small hydropower) installations, China is leading the small hydropower market in APAC, followed by India and Japan.

China has been so successful in the small hydropower sector that its implementation model is being used by many developing countries to expand their small hydropower capacity in order to address their own energy issues. In the past, construction of small hydropower in China was initially aimed to supply electricity for mountainous regions in collaboration with small-scale water conservancy projects. However, in the past decades, the SHP sector in China has flourished and attracted a significant amount of attention from the UN.

Rising Installed Capacity of SHP to Drive China Market

The resources to develop SHP in China are massive. The installed SHP capacity in China is concentrated mostly in Guangdong and 20 other provinces and cities, which account for around 60% of the country’s capacity. During the 12th Five-Year Plan, China planned to add approximately 160GW of hydropower with around 40GW of pumped storage capacity. This is projected to drive the capacity and efficiency of hydropower in many areas of the country. By the end of 2015, around five SHP provinces with 3GW and five SHP provinces with 5GW capacity will be completed. 


This demonstrates the positive momentum of the small hydropower market in China. This, in turn, will drive the overall small hydropower market. The China small hydropower market benefits greatly from the favorable policies implemented by the Chinese government. The government in China promotes the small hydropower sector by providing tax credits and incentives.

Underutilization and Environmental Issues to Challenge China Small Hydropower Market

Although China will continue to register strong growth in small hydropower, it will be challenged by several issues. The China small hydropower market is facing two key issues: environmental impact of SHP and the underutilization of resources in the country. China has vast potential to develop in this sector.

Presently, small stations in China are lagging far behind other developed nations. Italy is leading the small hydropower market in Europe due to its well-structured policies and large funding for market development. In North America, the small hydropower market is led by the U.S. and Canada due to their major SHP installations. The environmental impact of small hydropower stations in China such as soil erosion is also suppressing the development of this sector.


To overcome these issues, China is focusing more on scientific planning and management to reduce the impact of SHP on the environment and boost its installed capacity of small hydropower stations.

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