Landmark agreement between US hydropower and conservation groups

‘This demonstrates a strong commitment by the hydropower industry and environmental NGOs to work together’ – Eddie Rich

The International Hydropower Association welcomes a “landmark” collaboration agreement between environmental groups and the U.S. hydropower sector, which recognises the need to tackle climate change with renewable energy while also preserving healthy rivers.

The joint statement was issued on 13 October by twelve organisations including the US National Hydropower Association, the Hydropower Foundation, American Rivers and WWF, among other groups.

The agreement outlines how the benefits of hydropower, including its energy storage potential, should be harnessed while protecting the ecology and environment of American water systems. This will involve accelerating the development of hydropower technologies and the rehabilitation, retrofitting and removal of older dams, among other actions.

“The parties agree that maximising hydropower’s climate and other benefits, while also mitigating the environmental impact of dams and supporting environmental restoration, will be advanced through a collaborative effort,” the statement says.

The agreement was brokered following a two-and-a-half year dialogue co-convened by Stanford University and the Energy Futures Initiative. It recognises that, of the 90,000 dams that exist in the U.S. dams, less than 2,500 are fitted with hydropower.

In a blog on NHA’s website, NHA President and CEO Malcolm Woolf commented: “Our nation’s electricity grid already benefits from over 100 GW of flexible, carbon-free hydropower and pumped storage capacity and has the potential to add more without new impoundments. I believe there is common ground to be found that will allow us to bolster the health and vitality of our nation’s rivers while also maximising the nation’s hydropower resources to address climate change. And with this agreement in hand, we can start down that path together.”

Responding to the statement, IHA CEO Eddie Rich said: “We welcome this landmark agreement between the hydropower community and conservation groups in the USA. Decisions around all technologies have to balance a mixture of local, regional and global impacts. It is heartening to see a maturing debate on the trade-offs of hydropower development. This demonstrates a strong commitment by the hydropower industry and environmental NGOs to work together to promote renewable energy and address climate change while preserving the health of precious rivers.

“Renewable hydropower is going to be essential for the clean energy transition. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that it is developed sustainably including by fitting hydropower capacity on to existing dams, modernising others and removing those that serve no purpose. This statement is a call to action for the environmental and hydropower communities around the world to work together on the biggest challenge that faces the 21 century.”

Read the joint statement.

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