Greenhouse gas emissions of hydropower in the Mekong River Basin

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Researchers

Research units

  • Leiden University

Abstract

The Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia is undergoing extensive hydropower development, but the magnitudes of related greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are not well known. We provide the first screening of GHG emissions of 141 existing and planned reservoirs in the basin, with a focus on atmospheric gross emissions through the reservoir water surface. The emissions were estimated using statistical models that are based on global emission measurements. The hydropower reservoirs (119) were found to have an emission range of 0.2-1994 kg CO2e MWh-1 over a 100 year lifetime with a median of 26 kg CO2e MWh-1. Hydropower reservoirs facilitating irrigation (22) had generally higher emissions reaching over 22 000 kg CO2e MWh-1. The emission fluxes for all reservoirs (141) had a range of 26-1813 000 t CO2e yr-1 over a 100 year lifetime with a median of 28 000 t CO2e yr-1. Altogether, 82% of hydropower reservoirs (119) and 45% of reservoirs also facilitating irrigation (22) have emissions comparable to other renewable energy sources (<190 kg CO2e MWh-1), while the rest have higher emissions equalling even the emission from fossil fuel power plants (>380 kg CO2e MWh-1). These results are tentative and they suggest that hydropower in the Mekong Region cannot be considered categorically as low-emission energy. Instead, the GHG emissions of hydropower should be carefully considered case-by-case together with the other impacts on the natural and social environment.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number034030
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • greenhouse gas emissions, hydropower, Mekong River, renewable energy, Southeast Asia

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