1. Introduction

Renewable energy technologies can help countries meet their policy goals for secure, reliable and affordable energy to expand electricity access and promote development. This paper is part of a series on the cost and performance of renewable energy technologies produced by IRENA. The goal of these papers is to assist government decision-making and ensure that governments have access to up-to-date and reliable information on the costs and performance of renewable energy technologies.

Without access to reliable information on the relative costs and benefits of renewable energy technologies it is difficult, if not impossible, for governments to arrive at an accurate assessment of which renewable energy technologies are the most appropriate for their particular circumstances. These papers fill a significant gap in publically available information because there is a lack of accurate, comparable, reliable and up-to-date data on the costs and performance of renewable energy technologies. The rapid growth in installed capacity of renewable energy technologies and the associated cost reductions mean that even data one or two years old can significantly overestimate the cost of electricity from renewable energy technologies although this is not generally the case for hydropower, which is a mature technology. There is also a significant amount of perceived knowledge about the cost and performance of renewable power generation that is not accurate, or indeed even misleading. Conventions on how to calculate cost can infuence the outcome significantly, and it is imperative that these are well-documented.

The absence of accurate and reliable data on the cost and performance of renewable power generation technologies is therefore a significant barrier to the uptake of these technologies. Providing this information will help governments, policy-makers, investors and utilities make informed decisions about the role renewables can play in their power generation mix. This paper examines the fixed and variable cost components of hydropower by country and region and provides the levelised cost of electricity from hydropower, given a number of key assumptions. This up-to-date analysis of the costs of generating electricity from hydropower will allow a fair comparison of hydropower with other generating technologies.1

1 IRENA, through its other work programmes, is also looking at the costs and benefits, as well as the macro-econmic impacts, of renewable power generation technologies. See WWW.IRENA.ORG for further details.