Synthesis report: Harnessing hydropower

This synthesis report draws together the findings of a literature review and 3 country case study visits to India, Malawi and Nepal and Nepal),


The Harnessing Hydropower study aimed to provide an analysis of the historical performance of hydropower in selected countries and an assessment of the risks and opportunities related to the performance of schemes under future climate change in the context of water, energy and food security. This synthesis report draws together the findings of a literature review and three country case study visits (to India, Malawi and Nepal), during which a broad range of stakeholders in the hydropower sector were consulted.

Some of the main conclusions drawn by the synthesis report are as follows:

  • Hydropower is likely to play an increasingly important part in supplying electricity in low income countries in Africa and Asia over the next 30 years.
  • Where possible existing hydropower schemes should be rehabilitated and their operating regime optimised in the context of the environmental flow requirements and needs of other water users before investments are made in new infrastructure.
  • New hydropower schemes need to be assessed within the context of comprehensive catchment-wide and national planning.
  • Analysing the trade-offs associated with water storage developments could help ensure sustainable resource use and equitable sharing of benefits.
  • There is a paucity of suitable hydrological data with which to plan new hydropower schemes in many low income counties, and national hydro-meteorological systems should be improved with some urgency.
  • Emphasis should be placed on investing in hydropower schemes that maximise flexibility and adaptive management.
  • Climate change scenarios should be incorporated into the planning and design of new hydropower schemes to ensure their performance is resilient to future changes.
  • Environmental and social issues will continue to play a significant part in the development of new hydropower opportunities.
  • The benefits of large hydropower schemes often do not reach the poorest communities and can exacerbate inequalities.
  • Investments in new hydropower schemes should ensure that they increase the climate resilience of poor and vulnerable communities.
  • Further research is required across a range of fields to fill knowledge gaps for decision making under uncertainty in relation to hydropower development.

This report has been produced for Evidence on Demand by HR Wallingford with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited. It was produced for DFID’s Adaptation Knowledge and Tools programme.


Lumbroso, D.; Hurford, A.P.; Winpenny, J. Synthesis report: Harnessing hydropower. Evidence on Demand, UK (2014) xiii + 67 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_cr.september2014.lumbrosoetal2]

Synthesis report: Harnessing hydropower

Published 1 January 2014