Riverscope is a comprehensive assessment tool which offers a new way to assess the impacts and viability of dams.

Our Approach

The approach combines a rapid geospatial assessment with a qualitative, desk-based investigation into critical project issues and its underlying model is based on TMP System’s experience with Landscope.

Our geospatial analysis is based on an examination of 281 dams, which we have used to identify quantitative indicators of ESG risks. We then demonstrate the impact of these risks on a project’s financial viability using common and comparable financial metrics.

Riverscope is a valuable tool for energy stakeholders (investors, government, local people) to engage with each other on planned hydropower developments and alternatives, based on robust data-driven research and analysis.

Key Findings

· Large dams are associated with serious social and environmental impacts, which are often strongly interconnected and typically cumulative.

· ESG risks are difficult or impossible to manage, which contributes to delays and cost overruns that hydropower projects often suffer from.


· They also significantly weaken any case for public financial support for hydropower or for inclusion of large hydropower in sustainable energy plans, especially since alternatives are becoming increasingly competitive.

· Hydropower is often more expensive than alternatives, which are also more effective at delivering social and environmental benefits.

· On average, the projects we assessed were likely to be 49% more expensive than solar per kWh by their expected operation date, while in extreme cases this reached 77%.

Riverscope Pilot Cases

Name, capacity (MW), total investment ($ bn), comparison with solar (2030)

01 - Koukoutamba

294 MW
$0.8 bn
46% more

02 - Luang Prabang

1460 MW
$4.9 bn
77% more

03 - Pak Lay

770 MW
$2.1 bn
26% more

04 - Sambor

2600 MW
$5 bn
50% more

05 - Batang Toru

510 MW
$1.6 bn
46% more

Case Studies

Through Riverscope, we have been able to analyse and quantify the costs and benefits of hydropower projects. Our cases demonstrate some common features of large hydropower projects:

Bad Investments

They are often bad investments from a commercial perspective.

All of the cases we assessed will be severely delayed, and, in all cases, they will be more expensive than solar by the expected  date of operation (by 49% on average).

Our cases are likely to be delayed by 2-3 years and we expect them to reach the market between 2027-2039, perhaps considerably later.

Negative Impacts

Large dams have serious negative socio-economic impacts for those living near or downstream from them.

On average, we found 52,755 people would be directly affected. But in many instances, indirect social impacts are far-reaching.

For example, in the Mekong, dams threaten regional food security and stability through their impact on fisheries and farms.

Environmental Threats

In every instance we examined, hydropower threatens biodiversity and the local environment.

Individual projects can represent extinction level events for some species.

The five cases we looked at could lead to the extinction of species, including Tapanuli orangutans, Western chimpanzees, giant catfish, and many others. These costs appear unacceptably high.

Climate Change

Tropical dams either drive climate change (catchment) or are highly exposed to changing water regimes (run-of-river).

Most schemes are now run-of-river and will be less productive because of climate impact. Their capacity factors are uncertain and could be low, many will not operate year-round.

They will not provide consistent baseload and should be viewed as variable technologies.