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World Hydropower Congress concludes with clean energy and climate pledges

World Hydropower Congress concludes with clean energy and climate pledges

17 May 2019

Commitments underpin the renewable energy transition, manage climate risks and champion good practice

The seventh World Hydropower Congress concluded in Paris this week with 750 delegates from 70 countries participating. Partner organisations announced a range of initiatives to ensure hydropower projects and assets can bring maximum benefits when delivered sustainably.

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The congress, 14-16 May, brought together heads of organisations, senior executives and representatives from multiple sectors, including industry, the United Nations, government, civil society including indigenous community representatives, financial institutions including all multilateral development banks, and experts from academia. 

The International Hydropower Association (IHA), which convened the biennial event along with 50 partner organisations, pledged to continue its work to advance sustainable hydropower and share solutions which support the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In the closing session on 16 May, Richard Taylor, Chief Executive of IHA, said the association would continue to build and share knowledge on clean energy systems, responsibly managed freshwater, and climate change solutions. “Every hydropower project is an ambassador for the whole sector. There is no hiding place for bad practice or projects that are deemed to be a loss to society or the planet,” he said.

Mr Taylor announced that IHA would pursue new initiatives to help the sector bring forward solutions to enhance hydropower’s flexibility and deliver clean, efficient storage for integrated electricity grids, involving a mix of hydropower, solar and wind power and other renewables. 

In addition, Mr Taylor made a commitment for IHA to work closely with the UN, civil society, business, governments and investors to achieve a common understanding of good practice for hydropower projects affecting protected areas, and when working with indigenous communities.

The Global Network of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, an initiative started by Itaipu Binacional and UNDESA, and now supported by IHA and a growing community of governmental and non-governmental entities, had its inaugural meeting during the Congress. The network aims to show how the water-energy nexus can be managed sustainably, especially to find climate solutions. Within the wide spectrum of the nexus, “hydropower projects can be of great value in the fight against climate change”, said Jose Maria Sanchez, Paraguayan Technical Director of Itaipu Binacional.

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“Today Itaipu Binacional reiterates its commitment to our partners, IHA and UNDESA, to continue working together to achieve the goals proposed in both the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Mr Sanchez added.

A joint statement led by The Nature Conservancy, WWF and other non-governmental organisations was also announced on the closing day. “Hydropower can help balance power systems and facilitate the integration of a higher share of wind and solar generation – both through reoperation of existing hydropower and through strategically designed new projects, including pumped storage, that avoid the significant tradeoffs associated with past development,” states the declaration, which promotes collaboration to deliver low cost, low impact and low carbon energy. 

The World Hydropower Congress saw organisations reflect on ways to overcome a variety of challenges, covering project financing and development, operations, maintenance and modernisation. A major new European initiative on technology to enhance hydropower flexibility was discussed - IHA and many of its members are to be involved, with the project led by EPFL.

Regional commitments included the Inter-American Development Bank working with IHA on the Hydropower Sustainability Tools to build capacity in Latin America. 

More than 200 speakers exchanged experiences and examples of good practice at the World Hydropower Congress across 40 focus sessions and workshops.

Reflecting on a challenging year for the Ituango hydropower project in Colombia, EPM CEO Jorge Lodoño said: “The opportunity to share our experience with so many players in the World Hydropower Congress has been extremely valuable to us. The key to overcoming the gigantic challenges that EPM has faced since the incidents at Ituango has been transparency and our company’s willingness to engage and discuss all the issues. This has galvanised broad-based support, which is much appreciated."

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On 15 May, the World Hydropower Congress saw the launch of a new IHA Hydropower Sector Climate Resilience Guide to help projects become more resilient to climate change. It was developed with technical and financial support provided by the World Bank Group and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Both institutions committed to continue to work with IHA in helping the sector utilise the guide. 

IHA noted requests to establish knowledge-building and sharing initiatives around hydropower safety, pumped storage technology, policy and markets, and emerging hybrid technologies such as floating solar at hydropower projects; ESMAP and IHA announced plans to further studies on the global potential of this technology. 

At the World Hydropower Congress awards ceremony, Costa Rica’s Reventazon project was recognised as the recipient of the 2019 IHA Blue Planet Prize for sustainable hydropower development. Two other prizes - the IHA Mosonyi Award for Excellence in Hydropower and IHA Young Researcher Award - were also announced.

The 2019 Hydropower Status Report was launched by IHA on 13 May, showing electricity generation from hydropower achieved a record estimated 4,200 TWh in 2018, as worldwide installed hydropower capacity climbed to 1,292 GW.

Find out more about the World Hydropower Congress: www.hydropower.org/congress

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