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Hydropower and the pathway to net zero

To successfully limit global warming to 1.5°C, reducing CO₂ emissions to net zero is essential.

Sustainable hydropower will play a vital role in international efforts to achieve this target.

Nature's own battery

Hydropower is the perfect complement to variable energy sources solar and wind power.

When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, hydropower can reliably supply homes and businesses with clean electricity.

Investing in sustainable hydropower will help electricity grids to expand renewable supply in a stable and reliable way, without the need to fall back on fossil fuels to avoid blackouts.
Learn more about hydropower as a water battery

Hydropower: the facts

• Hydropower is among the cleanest sources of electricity, with a low greenhouse gas emission intensity compared to other energy forms.

• Globally, 60 per cent of all renewable electricity is generated by hydropower. In total, hydropower produces about 16 per cent of global electricity generation.

• No country has come close to achieving 100% renewables without hydropower in the energy mix.

• Using hydropower instead of fossil fuels for electricity generation has helped to avoid more than 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the past 50 years.
Read more facts about hydropower

IHA at COP26

The UK hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1–12 November 2021.

The climate negotiations bring together heads of state, climate experts and campaigners to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change.

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) will represent its members at this historic event as an observer organisation.
Find out more about COP26 events and activities

Committing to a sustainable future

Reaching the net zero emissions target requires a potential doubling of current global hydropower capacity, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

But hydropower projects also need to be built responsibly and sustainably.

A declaration for change

A landmark declaration was issued by the hydropower sector at the conclusion of the 2021 World Hydropower Congress and handed to COP26 President Alok Sharma.

The San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower urges green investment in responsible hydropower and places enhanced environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance expectations on the sector.
Learn more about the declaration

Multiple benefits

Hydropower issued for multiple purposes beyond electricity generation, providing infrastructure to supply clean water for homes, industry and agriculture. 

For example, hydropower projects can be used to regulate and store water to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events such as floods and drought.
Read more facts about hydropower

A new Standard

Read the consultation paper on the development of a global sustainability standard for hydropower.

If adopted, the Hydropower Sustainability Standard would apply a rating, or label, to projects of any size or stage of development.

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is working to build knowledge on renewable hydropower's contribution to climate mitigation and adaption.

Planning hydropower systems from a long-term, climate-resilient perspective will protect operations and infrastructure from future climate-related risks.

To support owners, developers, governments and investors to plan, build, upgrade and operate facilities in the face of changing climatic and hydrological conditions, we recently published a Hydropower Sector Climate Resilience Guide.

We also provide training and validation services for the GHG Reservoir (G-res) Tool, which is used to report on the carbon footprint of hydropower projects.

Join the conversation on social media: #HydroForNetZero

Find out more about IHA’s work on climate change.

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