The Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia is undergoing extensive hydropower development, but the magnitudes of related greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are not well known. This paper provides the first screening of GHG emissions of 141 existing and planned reservoirs in the basin, with a focus on atmospheric gross emissions through the reservoir water surface. The emissions were estimated using statistical models that are based on global emission measurements.
Our findings indicate that, although the reservoir emissions per produced energy may be low in the Mekong, hydropower cannot be considered categorically as low-emission energy. The emissions can reach the emission levels from fossil fuels power plants, depending on the characteristics and location of the hydropower project. High emissions were related most strongly to low area-to-electricity ratios, large reservoir surface areas and high air temperature. Therefore, each hydropower project should be carefully analysed for its GHG emissions. It is also obvious that careful removal of vegetation and other easily degradable organicmatter from the inundated area of a reservoir is fundamental in minimizing GHG emissions from it.
Published: February 2018
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