Hydropower is the most popular source of renewable energy in the world, and the overall main energy source in Latin America which boasted a capacity of 153GW in 2010, providing about 65% of all electricity generated; way above the world average of 16%.
The popularity of hydropower projects in South America has grown due to rising electricity prices from other energy sources, government incentives for renewable energy projects, and large amounts of private investment.
John Targett, the vice president and executive projects director for Latin America at MWH Global, said that “the potential for hydropower growth in Latin America is significant, and current generation is impressive. As the cost of energy increases, there is a resurgence of hydro after development of some of the larger scale projects that were commissioned in the 1960s, 70s and 80s trailed off.”
According to the International Hydropower Association, (IHA) the largest hydroelectric markets include Brazil, Chile, and Columbia.
Osvaldo San Martin, president and CEO of Voith Hydro Latin America, one of the largest hydro power companies in South America, responsible for 45GW of capacity spread over 600 projects, said that “the untapped hydropower potential is still huge and renewable energy continues to be one of the region's most valuable assets. We see continued growth in Brazil, especially in the new hydropower sector.”
Brazil already generates 74% of its electricity from hydropower, and possesses the second largest hydroelectric project in the world with the 14GW Itaipu installation on the Parana River. They are currently in the middle of building the $11 billion Belo Monte project, another 10+GW plant on the Xingu River.
Construction also continues on the 3,150-MW Santo Antonio facility on the Madeira River, and according to the developers Santo Antonio Energia, should be completed in 2015. The Madeira River is also home to another hydroelectric plant, the Jirau, which will supply 3,300MW to the grid and be completed in February 2013.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com