Small hydropower (SHP) has no standard international denomination and its upper limit varies from country to country. For example, in Canada it ranges up to 50 MW and in Brazil it ranges up to 30 MW; however, 10 MW total capacity is generally accepted worldwide. SHP is the development of hydroelectric power on a small scale to serve a small community or an industrial plant and provide off-grid and on-grid electricity generation capability. Small hydropower systems convert the energy in flowing water to electricity by using a turbine coupled to a generator. Small hydropower plants are ideal for rural areas, where there is no availability of grid. Hydroelectric energy is the cleanest form of renewable generation as it does not release any harmful gases, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants which directly or indirectly affect the environment.
Demand for clean and renewable source of energy has led to the development of the small hydropower market. Since small hydropower requires minimal reservoirs and civil construction work it has very low or no negative impact on the environment. The market for small hydropower has been rapidly expanding, predominantly due to government incentives and subsidies.
The small hydropower market has been analyzed in terms of installed capacity (GW). Additionally, the market has been segmented on the basis of geography. The Asia Pacific region held the largest share of 70.3% of the market for small hydropower in 2014. High hydropower potential, tax incentives, and increasing demand for off-grid electricity are some of the drivers for SHP installations.
In terms of geography, the small hydropower market has been segmented into five regions: North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and South and Central America. Asia Pacific was the largest market for small hydropower, accounting for 70.3% of the global market in 2014. China is the leader in terms of SHP installations, followed by India and Japan. The Government of China has been promoting small hydropower by offering tax credits and incentives. Europe was the second-largest market for SHP in 2014. Italy spearheads the small hydropower market in Europe with well-structured policies and large funding for market development. North America was the third-largest market for small hydropower, in terms of market share, in 2014. The U.S. and Canada are the leading countries with major SHP installations. The market in Middle East and Africa is expected to witness significant growth in the near future, with increase in electricity demand from renewable energy across Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt