New initiative to support sustainable hydropower in the Western Balkans

Across Europe's Western Balkans region, demand is growing for the reliable, pollution-free renewable energy that hydropower can provide. Yet local communities can be divided over its merits, with some campaigners seeking to bring a halt to new projects.

Fierza Hydroelectric Power Station operated by KESH

For national licensing authorities, the challenge is to assess whether proposed hydropower schemes are sustainable for the environment and livelihoods.

To address such concerns, the International Hydropower Association (IHA), the Albanian Power Corporation (KESH) and the Swiss government’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) are today launching a new initiative in the Western Balkans designed to support authorities, investors and developers to implement international good practices in hydropower development.

Starting in early 2021, the three-year initiative will see IHA Sustainability, the organisation's non-profit subdivision, work with project developers, alongside regulators, investors and civil society organisations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Internationally recognised guidelines

Alain Kilajian, Senior Sustainability Specialist at IHA, stated: "One of the main outcomes of this programme of support will be to ensure local stakeholders from the Western Balkans are better equipped with the necessary tools to understand and assess the sustainability performance of hydropower projects in line with internationally recognised guidelines.

"Reaching key decision-makers as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the training programme will strengthen institutional capacity and widen awareness about the good practice requirements expected of all hydropower projects and provide a common language to discuss important sustainability concerns in the region.

"The aim is to ensure hydropower projects comply with the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, a set of guidelines and assessment tools developed by governments, industry and social and environmental NGOs. These tools are aligned with lending criteria used by international institutions such as the World Bank and International Finance Corporation."

Commenting on the initiative, Benet Beci, Executive Director of KESH, stated: "On behalf of the Albanian Power Corporation, I feel honoured for being part of this programme, as the largest electricity producer in the country and in the region. Our future challenges concern increasing the energy production and ensuring electricity independence, while at the same time, ensuring a positive environmental and social presence in the communities living close to hydropower plants, as well as promoting sustainable social, economic and environmental development. Therefore, we are committed to adopt the best practices and standards of sustainable hydropower."

The training programme will examine all aspects of project development, including siting and design, community consultation, biodiversity and environmental risk management. With a combination of face-to-face workshops, e-learning and webinars, in-country and remote support, participants will become proficient in using the Hydropower Sustainability Tools and will participate in an assessment of a hydropower project in Albania.  

Patrik Meier, Deputy Head of Mission at the Swiss Embassy in Albania, stated: “All hydropower plants affect water resources and have an impact on the environment and livelihoods of affected communities. Hydropower sustainability is more relevant than ever to address climate change and economic development. I am happy that this new initiative will contribute to increase the sustainability of hydropower projects while complying with international standards."

IHA Sustainability has successfully delivered multiple capacity building programmes across the world: including with the World Bank in the Zambezi River Basin, with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation in Nepal and Myanmar, and with SECO in Ghana and Indonesia.

Learn about IHA’s work in hydropower sustainability.

Learn about SECO’s contribution to sustainable economic development.

Learn about Switzerland’s development projects in Albania.

Contact us

To enquire interest about this initiative and training opportunities please contact

Media contact

Will Henley, Head of Communications
International Hydropower Association

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