Reducing greenhouse gas emissions of Amazon hydropower with strategic dam planning.
ABSTRACT: Hundreds of dams have been proposed throughout the Amazon basin, one of the world's largest untapped hydropower frontiers. While hydropower is a potentially clean source of renewable energy, some projects produce high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit electricity generated (carbon intensity). Here we show how carbon intensities of proposed Amazon upland dams (median = 39 kg CO2eq MWh-1, 100-year horizon) are often comparable with solar and wind energy, whereas some lowland dams (median = 133 kg CO2eq MWh-1) may exceed carbon intensities of fossil-fuel power plants. Based on 158 existing and 351 proposed dams, we present a multi-objective optimization framework showing that low-carbon expansion of Amazon hydropower relies on strategic planning, which is generally linked to placing dams in higher elevations and smaller streams. Ultimately, basin-scale dam planning that considers GHG emissions along with social and ecological externalities will be decisive for sustainable energy development where new hydropower is contemplated.
Project description:As natural gas demand surges in China, driven by the coal-to-gas switching policy, widespread attention is focused on its impacts on global gas supply-demand rebalance and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Here, for the first time, we estimate well-to-city-gate GHG emissions of gas supplies for China, based on analyses of field-specific characteristics of 104 fields in 15 countries. Results show GHG intensities of supplies from 104 fields vary from 6.2 to 43.3?g CO2eq MJ-1. Due to the increase of GHG-intensive gas supplies from Russia, Central Asia, and domestic shale gas fields, the supply-energy-weighted average GHG intensity is projected to increase from 21.7 in 2016 to 23.3 CO2eq MJ-1 in 2030, and total well-to-city-gate emissions of gas supplies are estimated to grow by ~3 times. While securing gas supply is a top priority for the Chinese government, decreasing GHG intensity should be considered in meeting its commitment to emission reductions.
Project description:Global warming is accelerating and the world urgently needs a shift to clean and renewable energy. Hydropower is currently the largest renewable source of electricity, but its contribution to climate change mitigation is not yet fully understood. Hydroelectric reservoirs are a source of biogenic greenhouse gases and in individual cases can reach the same emission rates as thermal power plants. Little is known about the severity of their emissions at the global scale. Here we show that the carbon footprint of hydropower is far higher than previously assumed, with a global average of 173 kg CO2 and 2.95 kg CH4 emitted per MWh of electricity produced. This results in a combined average carbon footprint of 273 kg CO2e/MWh when using the global warming potential over a time horizon of 100 years (GWP100). Nonetheless, this is still below that of fossil energy sources without the use of carbon capture and sequestration technologies. We identified the dams most promising for capturing methane for use as alternative energy source. The spread among the ~1500 hydropower plants analysed in this study is large and highlights the importance of case-by-case examinations.
Project description:Due to rising energy demands and abundant untapped potential, hydropower projects are rapidly increasing in the Neotropics. This is especially true in the wet and rugged Andean Amazon, where regional governments are prioritizing new hydroelectric dams as the centerpiece of long-term energy plans. However, the current planning for hydropower lacks adequate regional and basin-scale assessment of potential ecological impacts. This lack of strategic planning is particularly problematic given the intimate link between the Andes and Amazonian flood plain, together one of the most species rich zones on Earth. We examined the potential ecological impacts, in terms of river connectivity and forest loss, of the planned proliferation of hydroelectric dams across all Andean tributaries of the Amazon River. Considering data on the full portfolios of existing and planned dams, along with data on roads and transmission line systems, we developed a new conceptual framework to estimate the relative impacts of all planned dams. There are plans for 151 new dams greater than 2 MW over the next 20 years, more than a 300% increase. These dams would include five of the six major Andean tributaries of the Amazon. Our ecological impact analysis classified 47% of the potential new dams as high impact and just 19% as low impact. Sixty percent of the dams would cause the first major break in connectivity between protected Andean headwaters and the lowland Amazon. More than 80% would drive deforestation due to new roads, transmission lines, or inundation. We conclude with a discussion of three major policy implications of these findings. 1) There is a critical need for further strategic regional and basin scale evaluation of dams. 2) There is an urgent need for a strategic plan to maintain Andes-Amazon connectivity. 3) Reconsideration of hydropower as a low-impact energy source in the Neotropics.
Project description:Hydropower has been the leading source of renewable energy across the world, accounting for up to 71% of this supply as of 2016. This capacity was built up in North America and Europe between 1920 and 1970 when thousands of dams were built. Big dams stopped being built in developed nations, because the best sites for dams were already developed and environmental and social concerns made the costs unacceptable. Nowadays, more dams are being removed in North America and Europe than are being built. The hydropower industry moved to building dams in the developing world and since the 1970s, began to build even larger hydropower dams along the Mekong River Basin, the Amazon River Basin, and the Congo River Basin. The same problems are being repeated: disrupting river ecology, deforestation, losing aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, releasing substantial greenhouse gases, displacing thousands of people, and altering people's livelihoods plus affecting the food systems, water quality, and agriculture near them. This paper studies the proliferation of large dams in developing countries and the importance of incorporating climate change into considerations of whether to build a dam along with some of the governance and compensation challenges. We also examine the overestimation of benefits and underestimation of costs along with changes that are needed to address the legitimate social and environmental concerns of people living in areas where dams are planned. Finally, we propose innovative solutions that can move hydropower toward sustainable practices together with solar, wind, and other renewable sources.
Project description:This study employs life cycle assessment (LCA) for the calculation of the balance (emissions minus sequestration) of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the organic livestock production systems of dehesas in the southwest region of Spain. European organic production standards regulate these systems. As well as calculating the system's emissions, this method also takes into account the soil carbon sequestration values. In this sense, the study of carbon sequestration in organic systems is of great interest from a legislation viewpoint. The results reveal that the farms producing meat cattle with calves sold at weaning age provide the highest levels of carbon footprint (16.27 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq)/kg of live weight), whereas the farms with the lowest levels of carbon emissions are montanera pig and semi-extensive dairy goat farms, i.e., 4.16 and 2.94 kg CO2eq/kg of live weight and 1.19 CO2eq/kg of fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM), respectively. Enteric fermentation represents 42.8% and 79.9% of the total emissions of ruminants' farms. However, in pig farms, the highest percentage of the emissions derives from manure management (36.5%-42.9%) and animal feed (31%-37.7%). The soil sequestration level has been seen to range between 419.7 and 576.4 kg CO2eq/ha/year, which represents a considerable compensation of carbon emissions. It should be noted that these systems cannot be compared with other more intensive systems in terms of product units and therefore, the carbon footprint values of dehesa organic systems must always be associated to the territory.
Project description:Brazil is one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Fire foci across the country contributes to these emissions and compromises emission reduction targets pledged by Brazil under the Paris Agreement. In this paper, we quantify fire foci, burned areas, and carbon emissions in all Brazilian biomes (i.e., Amazon, Cerrado, Caatinga, Atlantic Forest, Pantanal and Pampa). We analyzed these variables using cluster analysis and non-parametric statistics to predict carbon and CO2 emissions for the next decade. Our results showed no increase in the number of fire foci and carbon emissions for the evaluated time series, whereby the highest emissions occur and will persist in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. The Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, Caatinga and Pampa biomes had low emissions compared to the Amazon and Cerrado. Based on 2030 projections, the sum of emissions from fire foci in the six Brazilian biomes will exceed 5.7 Gt CO2, compromising the national GHG reduction targets. To reduce GHG emissions, Brazil will need to control deforestation induced by the expansion of the agricultural frontier in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. This can only be achieved through significant political effort involving the government, entrepreneurs and society as a collective.
Project description:This paper describes and validates the HydroCalculator Tool developed by Conservation Strategy Fund. The HydroCalculator Tool allows researchers, policy-makers and citizens to easily assess hydropower feasibility, by calculating traditional financial indicators, such as the levelized cost of energy, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and the economic net present value including emissions costs. Currently, people other than project developers have limited or no access to such information, which stifles informed public debate on electric energy options. Within this context, the use of the HydroCalculator Tool may contribute to the debate, by facilitating access to information. To validate the tool's greenhouse gas calculations, we replicate two peer-reviewed articles that estimate greenhouse gas emissions from different hydropower plants in the Amazon basin. The estimates calculated by the HydroCalculator Tool are similar to the ones found in both peer-reviewed articles. The results show that hydropower plants can lead to greenhouse gas emissions and that, in some cases, these emissions can be larger than those of alternative energy sources producing the same amount of electricity.
Project description:Food consumption accounts for an important proportion of the world GHG emissions per capita. Previous studies have delved into the nature of dietary patterns, showing that GHG reductions can be achieved in diets if certain foods are consumed rather than other, more GHG intensive products. For instance, vegetarian and low-meat diets have proved to be less carbon intensive than diets that are based on ruminant meat. These environmental patterns, increasingly analyzed in developed nations, are yet to be assessed in countries liked Peru where food purchase represents a relatively high percentage of the average household expenditure, ranging from 38% to 51% of the same. Therefore, food consumption can be identified as a potential way to reduce GHG emissions in Peru. However, the Peruvian government lacks a specific strategy to mitigate emissions in this sector, despite the recent ratification of the Paris Accord. In view of this, the main objective of this study is to analyze the environmental impacts of a set of 47 Peruvian food diet profiles, including geographical and socioeconomic scenarios. In order to do this, Life Cycle Assessment was used as the methodological framework to obtain the overall impacts of the components in the dietary patterns observed and primary data linked to the composition of diets were collected from the Peruvian National Institute for Statistics (INEI). Life cycle inventories for the different products that are part of the Peruvian diet were obtained from a set of previous scientific articles and reports regarding food production. Results were computed using the IPCC 2013 assessment method to estimate GHG emissions. Despite variations in GHG emissions from a geographical perspective, no significant differences were observed between cities located in the three Peruvian natural regions (i.e., coast, Andes and Amazon basin). In contrast, there appears to be a strong, positive correlation between GHG emissions and social expenditure or academic status. When compared to GHG emissions computed in the literature for developed nations, where the average caloric intake is substantially higher, diet-related emissions in Peru were in the low range. Our results could be used as a baseline for policy support to align nutritional and health policies in Peru with the need to reduce the environmental impacts linked to food production.
Project description:Dams contribute to water security, energy supply, and flood protection but also fragment habitats of freshwater species. Yet, a global species-level assessment of dam-induced fragmentation is lacking. Here, we assessed the degree of fragmentation of the occurrence ranges of ?10,000 lotic fish species worldwide due to ?40,000 existing large dams and ?3,700 additional future large hydropower dams. Per river basin, we quantified a connectivity index (CI) for each fish species by combining its occurrence range with a high-resolution hydrography and the locations of the dams. Ranges of nondiadromous fish species were more fragmented (less connected) (CI = 73 ± 28%; mean ± SD) than ranges of diadromous species (CI = 86 ± 19%). Current levels of fragmentation were highest in the United States, Europe, South Africa, India, and China. Increases in fragmentation due to future dams were especially high in the tropics, with declines in CI of ?20 to 40 percentage points on average across the species in the Amazon, Niger, Congo, Salween, and Mekong basins. Our assessment can guide river management at multiple scales and in various domains, including strategic hydropower planning, identification of species and basins at risk, and prioritization of restoration measures, such as dam removal and construction of fish bypasses.
Project description:Developing countries around the world are expanding hydropower to meet growing energy demand. In the Brazilian Amazon, >200 dams are planned over the next 30 years, and questions about the impacts of current and future hydropower in this globally important watershed remain unanswered. In this context, we applied a hydrologic indicator method to quantify how existing Amazon dams have altered the natural flow regime and to identify predictors of alteration. The type and magnitude of hydrologic alteration varied widely by dam, but the largest changes were to critical characteristics of the flood pulse. Impacts were largest for low-elevation, large-reservoir dams; however, small dams had enormous impacts relative to electricity production. Finally, the "cumulative" effect of multiple dams was significant but only for some aspects of the flow regime. This analysis is a first step toward the development of environmental flows plans and policies relevant to the Amazon and other megadiverse river basins.