Hydropower emits less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels but the lower albedo of hydropower reservoirs compared to terrestrial landscapes results in a positive radiative forcing, offsetting some of the negative radiative forcing of hydroelectricity generat ion. The cumulative effect of this lower albedo has not been quantified. Here we show, by quantifying the difference in remotely sensed albedo between globally distributed hydropower reservoirs and their surrounding landscape, that 19% of all investigated hydropower plants required 40 years or more for the negative radiative forcing from the fossil fuel displacement to offset the albedo effect. The length of these break-even times depends on the specific combination of climatic and environmental constraints, power plant design characteristics and country-specific electricity carbon intensities. We conclude that future hydropower plants need to minimize the albedo penalty to make a meaningful contribution towards limiting global warming.


Nature Vol. 6 nº4
Georg Wohlfahrt, Enrico Tomelleri e Albin Hammerle

Link de Acesso: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-021-00784-y