Decision-makers address climate change and digitalisation at workshop

11 October 2018

More than 70 senior hydropower decision-makers came together for an IHA workshop to share experiences and look at tools to improve project performance and address issues such as climate change and digitalisation.

The workshop, which took place on 19 September 2018, was hosted in partnership with UNESCO at its headquarters in Paris, France.    

The workshop is part of a series leading to the World Hydropower Congress in May 2019.

During the workshop, IHA gave a presentation about new draft climate resilience guidelines for the hydropower sector which are being tested by IHA and its members in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank.

The guidelines aim to incorporate climate change resilience and hydrological risk management into hydropower project appraisal, design, construction and operation, resulting in more robust and resilient projects.

María Ubierna, Senior Hydropower Sector Analyst at IHA, said the guidelines would address the needs of the hydropower sector, wider financial community, policy makers and local communities. “These guidelines will help project owners and developers to go step by step to ensure that projects are resilient. There were no guidelines on this previously,” she said.

Dr Gabriel Azevedo, Chief of the Environmental, Social & Governance Division at IDB Invest, commented: “We think these guidelines can help a lot - we hope to be applying them to a few projects in the coming months.”

On the subject of digitalisation and data gathering, Stela Nenova, Corporate Affairs Advisor at ENTSO-E, said: “It’s very important, when talking about data and decision-making, that we gather good quality data and make tools openly available. Hydropower generators can help by providing better data and better access to data.”

Dr Óli Sveinsson, Executive Vice President of Research & Development at Landsvirkjun, highlighted the importance of data monitoring at hydropower infrastructure in tandem with visual inspections. “Using data efficiently requires a number of steps - in our case, investing in these steps has been highly rewarding.”

This sentiment was echoed by Daniel Paschini, Director of EDF-GEH’s Maurienne hydro business unit, who also remarked that although decision-makers can now benefit from computerised models and ‘big data’ processing, these technologies “cannot replace human intelligence, good organisation or skilled staff.”

During another session, speakers presented several tools which can help decision-makers with the reporting and benchmarking of sustainability practices at all stages of project development.

João Costa, IHA Sustainability Specialist, gave a presentation on the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, which has been expanded to cover an assessment of a project’s resilience to climate change, and the Environmental, Social and Governance Gap Analysis (ESG) Tool, which was launched in July this year.  

The Protocol and ESG Tool provide decision-makers with the “knowledge, evidence and structure to allow them to make decisions in an informed way,” Mr Costa said.

Dr Julien Harou, Chair in Water Engineering at the University of Manchester, commented that the Protocol was “ahead of the game” and “looks at how hydropower can become, socially, environmentally and economically, a responsible and proactive player.”

Participants also learned about the GHG Reservoir (G-res) Tool, which allows project stakeholders to report on the carbon footprint of a reservoir. “The G-res Tool provides a more efficient and accurate non-field sampling way to assess the greenhouse gas emissions from reservoirs,” said Sara Mercier-Blais, Research Associate at Université du Québec à Montréal.

Richard Taylor, IHA’s Chief Executive, closed the workshop by saying: “We’ve always had to make decisions under uncertainty, but it’s important to be able to explain why we make the decisions we do, and we need to work together to find solutions.”  

The workshop is part of a series of events leading up to the 2019 World Hydropower Congress between 14-16 May 2019. The next workshop in the series looks at hydropower financing under climate change on 30 January 2019 in London, UK. For more information, visit the workshop's web page or to register your interest contact

Visit the event webpage for more information about this Paris workshop.

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