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December 2019

30 December 2019

Hydropower operators and developers can use the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools to identify and manage project risks and improve communications with stakeholders, says Elisa Xiao, a member of the Hydropower Sustainability Governance Committee.


Elisa is a Senior Environmental and Social Professional with the New Development Bank (NDB) with over 20 years of environmental and social consulting experience for both the public and private sectors in over 30 countries.

In 2014, Elisa became an Accredited Assessor for the Hydropower Sustainability Tools – comprising the Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice (HGIIP), an Assessment Protocol (HSAP) and an ESG Gap Analysis Tool (HESG). 

These tools are used to guide and assess hydropower project performance, examining a range of issues from communications and consultation and resettlement, to impacts on water quality and biodiversity.


A toolkit for companies

“The Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines provide a toolkit for companies to plan, prepare, implement and operate hydropower projects in a sustainable manner, taking into account technical, social, environmental, financial and economic considerations,” Elisa says.

Companies can use the guidelines at any stage of project development, benchmarking their current practices against international definitions of good practice, and taking remedial actions as necessary. “More importantly, the guidelines can help companies to prioritise their efforts towards the most significant risks, which in turn will assist in managing overall project risks,” she says.

Whereas the HGIIP define good practice, the HSAP and the HESG are used when a project proponent needs an objective assessment of its performance delivered by an independent accreditor assessor.

Building a sustainability profile

The HSAP is used to build a detailed sustainability profile for a project, which is used to benchmark its performance against definitions of both good and best practice. “By commissioning a project assessment using the HSAP, companies will establish a good understanding of their sustainability objectives, maintain effective communication with key stakeholders, identify major project sustainability risks that may hinder the project implementation, and develop practical measures to manage project sustainability risks,” she says.

In addition, companies can use the HSAP to build their own internal capacity through the assessment process. “What makes the HSAP unique is that it is the only such protocol that is specifically developed for the hydropower industry covering all sustainability issues. It can be seen as an encyclopedia for hydropower sustainability. Users can find answers for all their sustainability questions using it,” she adds.

A common language

The Hydropower Sustainability Tools, whether used individually or as a set, provide a common language for improving understanding about all kinds of issues in sustainability relevant to hydropower development.

“A fuller understanding of good and best practices in the industry can help developers, operators and stakeholders to establish practical risk management mechanisms for hydropower development projects. This will help them to obtain a ‘social licence’ to operate, facilitate project implementation and avoid potential project delays,” says Elisa.

Beyond the project team, the Hydropower Sustainability Tools can also be used and understood by wider stakeholders including national authorities, financiers and local communities, helping these groups to appreciate the performance standards to expect from a hydropower project.

“Governments, investors, or communities can now understand what is possible if good or best practice is pursued,” Elisa says. “By knowing the tools, these groups can build their own capacity, support the project to develop sustainability goals and measures, and participate in decision-making effectively.”

Find out more about the Hydropower Sustainability Tools. 

Contact an Accredited Assessor.



20 December 2019

Hydropower’s role in delivering affordable and sustainable energy, industrial growth and job creation came under focus at the recent Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum (SAREF 2019) in Sarawak, Malaysia.


The inaugural forum organised by Sarawak Energy in Kuching spotlighted how hydropower is a solution to meet growing demands for renewable energy while also reducing carbon emissions in one of the world’s fastest growing and fastest developing regions.

Eddie Rich, CEO of IHA, was among the international line-up of speakers. He said that hydropower is the major renewable energy source in Asia as well as driving more use of other renewable sources such as solar and wind. “Hydropower will play a major role in the transition to renewable energy, as no country has successfully transitioned to renewable energy without a significant hydropower component,” he said.

Sharbini Suhaili, Chief Executive of Sarawak Energy and IHA Board member, said the forum aimed to encourage greater policy support for decarbonisation initiatives while recognising renewable hydropower’s contribution to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“SAREF 2019 has shown that there is no one path to a sustainable energy future and a confluence of objectives through partnerships with diverse stakeholders is required,” Mr Suhaili said.

The two-day forum brought more than 1,000 delegates from international organisations, experts from the energy sector, representatives from government, research communities, private sector and policy and decision makers together.

Prominent speakers included Abang Abdul Rahman Johari Abang Openg, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, who opened the event, followed by UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh, who gave a special address.  Tammy Chu, IHA Vice President and Managing Director at Entura, also spoke at the event.

19 December 2019

Five global energy associations jointly urged governments to increase the take-up of renewable technologies at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain last week.


The representatives made the call at an official side-event held by the REN Alliance, a partnership of the International Hydropower Association, International Solar Energy Society, International Geothermal Association, World Bioenergy Association and World Wind Energy Association.

Mathis Rogner, Senior Analyst at the International Hydropower Association (IHA), represented the hydropower sector and was joined by José González, Senior Researcher at the International Solar Energy Society, Marit Brommer, Executive Director at International Geothermal Association and Remigijus Lapinskas, President of the World Bioenergy Association.

The panelists urged policy-makers to:

  • increase renewable energy penetration in the electricity grid
  • develop markets that reward power system flexibility
  • stop financing and subsidising fossil fuels
  • increase investments in renewable energy technologies.

Mr Rogner said that renewable technologies were prepared to meet global energy demand and decarbonisation goals, but the policy and regulatory frameworks need to catch up. “I would like to call on governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organisations and companies to come together and work upon this aspect, so renewable energy can play a greater part,” he said. It is clear that our power systems need a mix of services to ensure resilient systems, he added.

He said the hydropower sector was going to continue to grow, but its role is evolving to offering further and additional grid flexibility services to support and enable the greater integration of variable renewables, while also offering freshwater management services.

Dr Brommer agreed collaboration is key to ensure the necessary deployment of renewable energy technologies on the ground. “The geothermal sector is keen to continue to push the need for energy system transformation and is grateful for the outreach opportunities through strong and strategic partnerships provided by the REN Alliance at high-level events such as the COPs where our joint messages are amplified,” she said.

David Renne, President of the International Solar Energy Society, said that while it is unfortunate that more was not accomplished at the national and global level at COP25, the REN Alliance side-event confirms that much positive action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is taking place at local and regional levels.

“There is no question that the need for climate change mitigation is becoming more and more urgent, and that a major solution to this urgency is to increase the rate of deployment of clean renewable energy technologies that can meet all of our end use energy needs, including power, heat, and transport,” he said.

Laura Williamson, Outreach & Communications Manager at REN21, a think-tank focused on renewable energy policy, moderated the discussion.

Find out more about IHA’s work on clean energy systems.

In this first article in a new interview series profiling Fellows of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), we meet Óli Grétar Blöndal Sveinsson from Landsvirkjun, the national power company of Iceland.



Óli Grétar Blöndal Sveinsson is an Executive Vice President at Landsvirkjun, whose role is to manage the preparation of new projects and conduct research on existing power systems.

Óli has a degree in physics from the University of Iceland, followed by a master’s and doctorate in civil engineering specialising in hydrological processes from Colorado State University. He has also completed postgraduate work at the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, Columbia University, and been a college and university lecturer.

Óli’s passion for hydropower and renewable energy reflects in the enthusiasm he displays while talking to IHA about the industry.

“Most of my life has been around hydrology and hydropower,” he says. “I started out as a hydrologic surveyor during summer vacations while studying for a degree in physics and later civil engineering with a focus on hydrology and hydropower.”

Iceland’s power generation is 100 per cent renewable from hydropower, geothermal and wind sources, a fact which clearly makes Óli very proud.

During his career, he has been involved in constructing multiple renewable hydroelectric, geothermal and wind projects, with the largest project being the 700 MW Karahnjukar HEP commissioned in 2007.

However, Óli counts Landsvirkjun receiving the IHA Blue Planet Prize for excellence in hydropower sustainability - for the operation of the Blanda hydropower station in 2017 - as one of his proudest moments.

Achieving sustainability in hydropower is not easy, he admits. “Hydropower harnesses the power of flowing rivers and hydropower projects can have negative impacts on aquatic life, environment, land use and other competing water usage,” Oli explains.

“As such, the number of stakeholders can be high, making it a lengthy process to prepare and launch a successful project that is deemed acceptable in terms of overall positive and negative impacts. There is always a debate on who is benefitting.”

Nonetheless, Óli remains optimistic about the future of the hydropower sector, which he believes should play a key role in the management of water use and adaptation to climate change by mitigating the effects of severe droughts and floods.

“Hydropower is the most flexible and efficient renewable energy sources available,” he says. “It can play a key role in the creation of 100 per cent renewable power systems.”

Through the years, Óli, who was elected Vice President of IHA in September 2019, has acquired deep expertise in the hydropower sector. “I think it is important to work together and share experience and knowledge,” he says.

“By becoming an IHA Fellow, I have joined a club of experts that know everything there is to know about hydropower.” 

Find out how to become a Fellow of the International Hydropower Association (IHA).

13 December 2019

A new IHA guide will help hydropower developers and operators manage potential impacts arising from erosion and sedimentation in a river basin, allowing decision-makers to avoid business risks and act responsibly towards the environment and local communities.

The Hydropower Erosion and Sedimentation How-to Guide provides an overview of current knowledge and effective practices from across the sector in managing risks associated with erosion and sedimentation.


It covers potential impacts upstream and downstream of a hydropower project, sediment transport in rivers, erosion from the project site, civil and electromechanical structures, and climate change.

The guide presents methodologies and technologies related to scoping and siting, design and mitigation, and assessment and monitoring.  The guide in addition highlights how such measures can increase a project’s resilience to hydrological variability and support climate change adaptation.

IHA Sustainability Specialist, Alain Kilajian, said: “Effective erosion and sediment management is essential to sustainably develop and operate a hydropower project. This guide looks at good practices in the field and provides hydropower professionals with practical approaches to managing even the most challenging issues.”

Lead author and independent environmental and social consultant, Doug Smith, said: “Effective management of erosion and sedimentation is fundamental to hydropower’s role in a low carbon future. With its catalogue of methodologies and technologies, I hope the guide provides clarity on how to do this, where to begin, and where to find further advice and expertise.”

Download the Hydropower Erosion and Sedimentation How-to Guide

About IHA

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a non-profit membership organisation committed to sustainable hydropower. Our mission is to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. We achieve this through sector monitoring, advancing strategies that strengthen performance, and building an open, innovative and trusted platform for knowledge.

Read about the Hydropower Sustainability Tools and Good Practice on Erosion and Sedimentation.