What is hydropower?

Hydropower is a renewable source of energy which uses the force or energy of moving water to generate power.

This power, or ‘hydroelectricity’, is generated when falling water is channelled through water turbines. The pressure of the flowing water on turbine blades rotates a shaft and drives an electrical generator, converting the motion into electrical energy.


Hydropower is the most advanced and mature renewable energy technology, and provides some level of electricity generation in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Hydropower plants range from very small to very large individual plants and vast integrated schemes involving multiple large hydropower plants.

How is hydropower used in Australia?

In 2013, Australia had over 120 operating hydroelectric power stations, with a total generation of almost 20 GWh or 8% of total energy generated.

Unfortunately, water availability is a key constraint on future growth in hydroelectricity generation in Australia. Virtually all Australian hydropower is produced by stations at water storages created by dams in major river valleys. Most major hydropower opportunities in Australia have already been realised.

In the future there may be some growth in use of ’mini-hydro’ schemes—which can be ‘run-of-river’, with no dam or water storage, or developed using existing or new dams whose primary purpose is local water supply, river and lake water-level control, or irrigation.

In 2029–30, the share of hydropower in Australia’s total electricity generation is projected to fall to around 3.5%.

Hydropower projects ARENA is supporting