Global resource potential of seasonal pumped hydropower storage for energy and water storage

Julian D. Hunt, Edward Byers, Yoshihide Wada, Simon Parkinson, David E.H.J. Gernaat, Simon Langan, Detlef P. van Vuuren, Keywan Riahi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Seasonal mismatches between electricity supply and demand is increasing due to expanded use of wind, solar and hydropower resources, which in turn raises the interest on low-cost seasonal energy storage options. Seasonal pumped hydropower storage (SPHS) can provide long-term energy storage at a relatively low-cost and co-benefits in the form of freshwater storage capacity. We present the first estimate of the global assessment of SPHS potential, using a novel plant-siting methodology based on high-resolution topographical and hydrological data. Here we show that SPHS costs vary from 0.007 to 0.2 US$ m−1 of water stored, 1.8 to 50 US$ MWh−1 of energy stored and 370 to 600 US$ kW−1 of installed power generation. This potential is unevenly distributed with mountainous regions demonstrating significantly more potential. The estimated world energy storage capacity below a cost of 50 US$ MWh−1 is 17.3 PWh, approximately 79% of the world electricity consumption in 2017.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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