Actions for industry

Communities and regulators expect hydropower developers and operators to build renewable energy infrastructure sustainably and responsibly.

Here are eight ways hydropower companies can build confidence among the public and attract green investors for their clean energy projects:  

1. Join IHA and support the sustainable hydropower community

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is the global voice for sustainable hydropower.

The collective experience of IHA's members, together with their collaborative support and financial contribution, strengthens our efforts to advance sustainable hydropower.

The best way industry can support sustainable hydropower is to become a member of IHA, support our campaigns and advocacy and share your experiences with our members.  

Enquire today about becoming a member.  

2. Certify projects with the Hydropower Sustainability Standard

Developers and operators of hydropower should demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in a way that is clear, transparent and verifiable.

A project’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance can be assessed and certified with the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.  

This labelling scheme covers 12 critical ESG topics including Biodiversity, Safety, Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Heritage and is aligned with World Bank and IFC performance standards.

3. Access green finance by reporting your low carbon footprint

To demonstrate eligibility for green finance under criteria developed by the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI), hydropower projects need to demonstrate their low carbon footprint, as well as their sustainability performance.  

Projects should use the G-res Tool, a free, web-based carbon calculator for reservoirs, to assess and report greenhouse gas emissions for planned or existing projects. Using readily available input data, the tool provides a cost effective way to more accurately assess net emissions.

4. Sustainability begins with project design and planning

Any hydropower developer should consider community concerns and environmental needs from the outset.

As with any energy or river-based infrastructure, a hydropower project should be designed from day one to deliver net positive benefits to merit their construction and operation.

At the planning stage, hydropower developers should follow the Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice to ensure a project is built in line with international standards.

5. Engage affected communities at an early stage

All project-affected communities, including Indigenous Peoples and vulnerable groups, should be identified and engaged on the issues of interest to them.

Livelihoods and living standards impacted by a hydropower project should be improved relative to pre-project conditions, in line with the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.

When Indigenous Peoples are concerned, it is especially important to seek and obtain their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before construction proceeds.

6. Adhere to IHA’s duty of care for Protected Areas

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) has a no-go policy for development of new hydropower projects in World Heritages Sites.

In addition, IHA members are expect to adhere to a special duty of care in relation to hydropower projects in legally designated Protected Areas.  

High standards of performance and transparency should be implemented for these areas through a systematic application of the Hydropower Sustainability Tools or certification against the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.  

7. Invest in and upgrade to the latest technologies

Technology in the hydropower sector is constantly evolving. New and existing plants should incorporate latest technology to maximise clean energy generation and water management.

Plant owners and operators should consider upgrades that support renewables integration with enhanced efficiency and flexibility services, taking full advantage of smart controls and digitalisation.

Non-powered dams should also be assessed for potential retrofitting with hydropower capacity.

8. Decommission dams that perform poorly

Dams that no longer provide benefits to society, have safety issues that cannot be cost-effectively mitigated, or have disproportionate environmental impacts that cannot be effectively addressed, can and should be assessed by hydropower operators for potential decommissioning.

Additional resources

Hydropower 2050: Identifying the next 850+ GW towards Net Zero  

International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower - Executive Summary

Hydropower Status Report  

The green hydrogen revolution: hydropower’s transformative role

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