Hydroelectricity, or hydroelectric power, is electricity produced from hydropower. In 2015, hydropower generated 16.6% of the world's total electricity and 70% of all renewable electricity, and was expected to increase by about 3.1% each year for the next 25 years.
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Hydropower is produced in 150 countries, with the Asia-Pacific region generating 33 percent of global hydropower in 2013. China is the largest hydroelectricity producer, with 920 TWh of production in 2013, representing 16.9% of domestic electricity use.
The cost of hydroelectricity is relatively low, making it a competitive source of renewable electricity. The hydro station consumes no water, unlike coal or gas plants. The typical cost of electricity from a hydro station larger than 10 megawatts is 3 to 5 US cents per kilowatt hour. With a dam and reservoir it is also a flexible source of electricity, since the amount produced by the station can be varied up or down very rapidly (as little as a few seconds) to adapt to changing energy demands. Once a hydroelectric complex is constructed, the project produces no direct waste, and it generally has a considerably lower output level of greenhouse gases than photovoltaic power plants and certainly fossil fuel powered energy plants (see also Life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions of energy sources). However, when constructed in lowland rainforest areas, where inundation of a part of the forest is necessary, they can emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gases.
The construction of a hydroelectric complex can cause significant environmental impact, principally in loss of arable land and population displacement. They also disrupt the natural ecology of the river involved, affecting habitats and ecosystems, and the siltation and erosion patterns. While dams can ameliorate the risks of flooding, they also contain a risk of dam failure, which can be catastrophic.