The Myitsone Dam project in Kachin State, Myanmar, was suspended in 2011 after protests. Photo Credit: Quinn Ryan Mattingly for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Environment The World8. May 2023

Renewable Energy: a Dam Revolution

Across the world, renewable energy sources like solar and wind have supplanted hydropower since they are cheaper and less invasive for humans and nature alike, meaning that big dams are slowly but surely on their way out.

“Within a decade or so, it’s very likely that solar and wind power will be more attractive investments than big hydropower,” states Sebastian Sterl, an Africa-based researcher with the World Resources Institute. “The old refrain that hydropower is the cheapest source of electricity you can find will no longer be true.”

Hydropower fails to economically compete with wind and solar energy. Indeed, hydroelectric dams have one of the highest cost overruns while solar is ranked the lowest and wind is the third lowest. While the cost of hydropower installation rose by 62% between 2010 and 2021, the cost of solar power installation has dropped by 82%, offshore wind by 41%, and onshore wind by 35% during the same period. As for the cost of electricity, solar, offshore wind, and onshore wind declined by 88%, 60%, and 68%, respectively, while the cost of electricity from hydropower increased by 24%.

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