First certification against the Hydropower Sustainability Standard for South America

The massive 3.75GW Jirau hydropower plant, owned by Jirau Energia, is the latest project and the first in South America to achieve Gold-level certification against the Hydropower Sustainability Standard (HSS). As Jirau Energia’s largest shareholder, IHA member ENGIE is leading the way for others in the region to commit to sustainable hydropower.  

“This is a story about how the Hydropower Sustainability certification process can help improve a huge project’s sustainability performance” said Eddie Rich, CEO of IHA.  

"We are very happy and honoured to have achieved this unprecedented certification in Brazil. We have been committed to sustainability from the beginning of the project, and 'resilience' is the word that summarises my memories of the construction period. This year, we celebrate 10 years of operation, and this award comes as an important recognition of all our hard work," highlights Maurício Bähr, CEO of ENGIE Brazil and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Jirau Energia.

The certification process for the Jirau project involved a rigorous independent assessment and site visit conducted by a team of accredited assessors. Following this, a 60-day public consultation period allowed stakeholders to review and comment on the assessment findings.

The project's performance in the assessment exceeded good practice, with scores surpassing 60% in all advanced requirements for each of the 12 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) topics outlined in the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.

"As the primary source of electricity in Brazil, hydropower is essential to meet the country's energy demands," remarked Edson Silva, CEO of Jirau Energia. "We recognise and advocate for the importance of hydroelectricity generation that actively minimises any potential adverse social and environmental effects. We hope that Jirau can set an example for other hydropower projects across the continent, encouraging them to continuously improve and demonstrate their sustainability practices."

Jirau's commitment to sustainability was evident from its early stages as it underwent an assessment in 2012 against the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) tool, when the project was still in its implementation stage. This initial assessment laid the foundation for Jirau's remarkable journey towards achieving Gold certification in 2023.

"Having conducted the initial assessment of the Jirau project using the HSAP during construction, it is very gratifying to return after a decade of operations and witness the significant progress and consolidation of environmental and social initiatives, along with the positive impacts generated by the project,” noted Joerg Hartmann, Lead Accredited Assessor for the 2023 assessment and a member of the assessing team in the 2012 assessment. “Having previously collaborated with Jirau Energia, we hold an optimistic outlook that this dedicated team will persist in working on remaining issues, particularly in areas related to the livelihoods of local communities and aquatic biodiversity, even as they have already achieved Gold-level certification."

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