The International Energy Agency published a report with the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy that said hydroelectric production could double worldwide by 2050 given the right investment climate.
"Hydroelectricity is a very cost-effective technology already," IEA Deputy Executive Director Richard Jones said in a statement at an energy conference in Spain. "However, new developments face tough financial challenges. Governments must create a favorable climate for industry investment when designing electricity markets."
The IEA said additions in hydropower capacity since 2005 have generated more electricity than all other sources of renewable energy combined. Hydropower plants, the IEA said, have the potential side benefits of providing flood control and fresh water.
Albert Geber de Melo, director general of the Brazilian Electric Energy Research Center said developing hydropower projects in emerging economies can improve access to electricity while fostering responsible economic development.
In April, the U.S. Department of Energy published a study examining the electricity potential at existing dams that aren't designed to produce power. The report found the untapped energy potential represents 12 gigawatts, roughly 15 percent of the current hydropower capacity in the United States.