Hydropower is commonly considered as a clean energy source to fuel Southeast Asian economic growth. Recent study published in Environmental Research Letters finds that hydropower in the Mekong River Basin, largest river in Southeast Asia, might not always be climate friendly.
The median greenhouse gas (GHG) emission of hydropower was estimated to be 26 kg CO2e/MWh over 100-year lifetime, which is within the range of other renewable energy sources (<190 kg CO2e/MWh). The variation between the individual hydropower projects was, however, large: nearly 20% of the hydropower reservoirs had higher emissions than other renewable energy sources and in several cases the emissions equalled those from fossil fuel energy sources (>380 kg CO2e/MWh).
The study concludes that hydropower in the Mekong cannot be considered categorically as a clean energy source; instead, the emissions should be evaluated case-by-case together with other social and environmental impacts.