Close
Published 11 June 2021

Hydropower Status Report

Global data, trends and insights from the International Hydropower Association

Online version
DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Headlines

2021 Hydropower Status Report underscores need for rapid growth to achieve net zero

Latest data on hydropower growth and development show the world remains perilously off-track in the race to achieve net zero emissions, according to the 2021 Hydropower Status Report.

Despite the global disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Hydropower Association’s report shows that installed hydropower capacity rose by 1.6 per cent to 1,330 gigawatts (GW) over the past year.

'This is a wake-up call'

To limit dangerous global warming and achieve net zero by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) however says the water power sector will need to double in size to 2,600 GW. This equates to building the same amount of capacity in the next 30 years as was built in the last 100 years.

“At the present rate of hydropower development, the global energy pathway to net zero emissions will not be realised,” warn IHA President Roger Gill and IHA Chief Executive Eddie Rich in the report’s foreword. “This is a wake-up call for policy-makers, hydropower developers and project financiers and provides clarity for the public.

“Investment in sustainably developed and responsibly operated hydropower is essential to support the massive expansion of variable renewables like wind and solar. However annual growth rates of 1.5 to 2 per cent cannot meet the doubling of installed capacity proposed by the International Energy Agency to achieve net zero by 2050.”

Hydropower's critical role

According to the report, the Covid-19 crisis has further underlined how the power system flexibility provided by hydropower is now a prerequisite for the clean energy transition. Hydropower’s critical role was illustrated by a recent near blackout incident in Europe in January 2021.

Despite the slump in demand for fossil fuels experienced during 2020, hydropower generated a record 4,370 terawatt hours (TWh) of clean electricity – up from the previous record of 4,306 TWh in 2019. This is roughly equivalent to the entire annual electricity consumption of the United States.

During 2020, hydropower projects totalling 21 GW were put into operation, up on 2019’s 15.6 GW. Nearly two-thirds of this growth came from China, which saw 13.8 GW of new capacity. Among other countries that added new capacity, only Turkey (2.5 GW) contributed more than 1 GW.

Major projects completed last year include the 2.1 GW Lauca facility in Angola, the 1.8 GW Jixi pumped storage facility in China and the Ilisu (1.2 GW) and Lower Kaleköy (0.5 GW) projects in Turkey. The single biggest project was Wudongde in China, which put eight of its 12 units online, adding 6.8 GW to the Chinese grid. The remainder is expected to be commissioned in 2021.

China remains the world leader in respect of total hydropower installed capacity with over 370 GW. Brazil (109 GW), the USA (102 GW), Canada (82 GW) and India (50 GW) make up the rest of the top five. Japan and Russia are just behind India, followed by Norway (33 GW) and Turkey (31 GW).

Foreword

The message of this 2021 Hydropower Status Report is clear – at the present rate of hydropower development, the global energy pathway to net zero emissions will not be realised. This is a wake-up call for policy-makers, hydropower developers and project financiers and provides clarity for the public.

Pictured: IHA CEO Eddie Rich (left) and IHA President Roger Gill (right)

Investment in sustainably developed and responsibly operated hydropower is essential to support the massive expansion of variable renewables like wind and solar. However annual growth rates of 1.5 to 2 per cent cannot meet the doubling of installed capacity proposed by the International Energy Agency to achieve net zero by 2050.

Despite the challenge ahead, there is reason for optimism. Companies, investors and citizens increasingly recognise the need for fundamental change. We are witnessing a momentum and a unity of voice not seen before. In recent months, the US has rejoined the Paris Agreement and, together with China and other significant carbon emitters, is on the road to setting ambitious targets to reach net zero.

Sustainable hydropower must be part of this journey. It is green, clean, modern, affordable and reliable. The forthcoming Hydropower Sustainability Standard, the new certification and rating system, will give hydropower developers and operators a means to demonstrate this. In addition, the newly formed International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower will soon set out policies to guide how clean, green water batteries with long duration storage can back up variable renewables.

As we prepare for the landmark 2021 World Hydropower Congress, to be followed by the historic United Nations Climate Conference (COP26), we must harness the energy generated to put sustainable hydropower where it should be: at the heart of the transition.

IHA President Roger Gill and IHA CEO Eddie Rich


Executive summary

Now in its eighth edition, the 2021 Hydropower Status Report is published as the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic. Signs of recovery are emerging but considerable disruption is expected to continue throughout 2021.

Beyond Covid, the challenge of climate change remains the dominant issue for the energy sector. The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s flagship Net Zero by 2050 report, published in May 2021, suggests the world will need 2,600 GW of hydropower capacity by mid-century to have a chance of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius. That means that we need to build the same amount of capacity in the next 30 years as in the previous 100.

It is now becoming increasingly clear that the role of renewable hydropower will undergo a qualitative shift over the coming decades. While it will continue to provide low cost, baseload electricity in many markets, hydropower will increasingly be valued for its flexibility and provide essential support to the huge growth in wind and solar that is needed to limit global warming.

Indeed, as recognised by the IEA, hydropower will become the dominant source of flexible electricity by 2050, so it is essential that investment steps up to ensure low carbon energy security over the coming decades.

Events over the past year have demonstrated that electricity systems need flexibility now. In Europe, in January 2021 a blackout event was avoided through the support of highly flexible sources of generation like hydropower, conversely in Texas in February 2021 supply failed in extreme weather and there was not enough flexible generation available to compensate.

New hydropower installed capacity by region in 2020 (MW)


This report shows the hydropower sector generated a record 4,370 terawatt hours (TWh) of clean electricity in 2020 - up from the previous record of 4,306 TWh in 2019. To put this into context, this is approximately the same as the entire annual electricity consumption of the United States.

Overall hydropower installed capacity reached 1,330 gigawatts (GW) in 2020. This represents year-on-year growth of 1.6 per cent - higher than 2019 but still well down on the more than 2 per cent needed to enable hydropower’s essential contribution to tackling climate change.

During 2020, hydropower projects totalling 21 GW in capacity were put into operation, up on 2019’s 15.6 GW. Nearly two-thirds of this growth came from China, which saw 13.8 GW of new capacity. Among other countries that added new capacity in 2020, only Turkey (2.5 GW) added more than 1 GW.

Pumped storage hydropower totalled 1.5 GW of the new additions in capacity, up on the 304 MW added in 2019. Most of this was in China (1.2 GW), with Israel also commissioning the 300 MW Mount Gilboa project under an innovative financing model.

Major projects completed in 2020 included the 2.1 GW Lauca facility in Angola, the 1.8 GW Jixi pumped storage facility in China and the Ilisu (1.2 GW) and Lower Kaleköy (0.5 GW) projects in Turkey. The single biggest increase in capacity was in China, where the Wudongde project put eight of its 12 units online, adding 6.8 GW to the Chinese grid. The remainder is expected to be commissioned in 2021.

China remains the world leader in respect of total hydropower installed capacity with over 370 GW. Brazil (109 GW), the USA (102 GW), Canada (82 GW) and India (50 GW) make up the rest of the top five. Japan and Russia are just behind India, followed by Norway (33 GW) and Turkey (31 GW).

Projects completed in 2020 (MW)

Methodology

The data presented in this report were continuously tracked and updated to account for new information in our global hydropower database which tracks more than 13,000 stations in over 150 countries.

Data were compiled by a team of analysts using information sourced from (1) official statistics from governments, regulation agencies, transmission network operators and asset owners; (2) scientific articles and reports; (3) daily news reports involving hydropower plant development, official declarations of contracts, and equipment deals; and (4) direct consultation with operators and industry sources.

When generation data from primary sources are not available, estimates are prepared based on the previous year’s figure, averaged capacity factors and regional meteorological events and data.

For a small number of countries capacity data from previous years has been updated with new information. This means that those countries will see a year on year increase compared to previous years’ reports, but these increased capacity numbers are not treated as capacity added in 2020.

Hydropower capacity by region in 2020 (GW)

Hydropower growth in context

The rise of 21 GW in total hydropower installed capacity in 2020 represented an increase of 1.6 per cent on the previous year. By comparison, the average year-on-year growth in installed capacity in the five years between 2016 and 2020 was 1.8 per cent. It is important to note however that annual growth can vary considerably depending on when major projects, which are years in development, are commissioned.

Notwithstanding, the world needs significantly more hydropower, to be built at a much faster rate, if it is to tackle climate change. Multilateral bodies such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) have previously stated that the world needs around an additional 850 GW of new hydropower to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. To reach this target would require yearly growth of around 2 per cent a year on average.

But if we want to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees the challenge is greater. The IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 report now estimates some 1,300 GW of new hydropower capacity is needed by 2050. To achieve this more stretching target the yearly growth required increases to at least 2.3 per cent if the world starts building at this rate now.

In addition, the global hydropower fleet is ageing, and although much can be modernised it is inevitable that there will be some retirements, affecting future capacity.

Hydropower installed capacity growth, 2016-2020 (GW)

Regional developments

North and Central America

• In the United States, hydropower industry and civil society stakeholders came to an historic agreement. The ‘Uncommon Dialogue’ will address climate change by advancing renewable energy while protecting rivers.

• In Canada, the Québec government approved the Appalaches-Maine Interconnection Line project that will supply the United States with about 10 TWh annually of clean hydroelectricity.

• Costa Rica nearly reached 100 per cent renewable electricity production in 2020. It was the sixth consecutive year producing over 98 per cent from renewable sources including hydropower.

• Mexico continued with its focus on the modernisation of powered and nonpowered dams with plans to equip 15 irrigation dams for hydropower generation.

• In Honduras, the Inter-American Development Bank approved an US$18 million loan to modernise the 300 MW Francisco Morazán hydropower plant, the largest in the country.

South America

• Itaipu, on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, continued setting records in production and production efficiency. In 2020, the plant celebrated the milestone of 2.7 TWh of electricity produced since it started operations in 1984.

• In Brazil, Companhia Hidrelétrica do São Francisco (CHESF) commissioned Andritz to carry out the modernisation of the 1,050 MW Sobradinho plant.

• The Inter-American Development Bank approved an extra US$900 million to finish the 2,400 MW Ituango project in Colombia which suffered a major construction incident in 2018 that may lead to one of the largest insurance claims in the history of civil engineering.

• Bolivia resumed construction on the 290 MW Ivirizu and the 204 MW Miguillas hydropower projects in Cochabamba and in La Paz, with a total investment of nearly US$1,000 million.

Europe

• In 2020, all renewable sources combined generated more electricity than fossil fuels for the first time in the EU, representing a key milestone towards decarbonisation.

• While demand reduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, total hydropower generation was 4 per cent higher compared to 2019, largely due to increased output in the Nordics and Iberia.

• Turkey added 2,480 MW new hydropower capacity, with major plants commissioned such as 1,224 MW Ilisu, 429 MW Cetin, 120 MW Alpaslan II and 500 MW Lower Kaleköy.

• Major policy updates include the EU Green Deal, the EU Taxonomy Regulation for environmentally sustainable investment, and the launch of the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

• Additional hydropower plants commissioned in 2020 included the 197 MW Moglice hydropower plant i Albania, and a number of facilities in Norway increasing national capacity by 324 MW.

Top 10 countries by new installed capacity (MW)

Africa

• Despite the disruptions and changes caused by Covid-19, hydropower has shown resilience in the region with its share increasing in the electricity mix in several countries, such as Ethiopia, Angola and Guinea.

• In 2020, 938 MW of hydropower capacity was put into operation across the African continent. Hydropower accounts for 16 per cent of the total electricity share and is expected to increase to more than 23 per cent by 2040.

• With Lauca (2,071 MW) fully operational, Angola (3,836 MW) has become the second highest producer of hydropower on the continent, surpassing South Africa (3,596 MW) and behind only Ethiopia (4,074MW).

• Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam (6,000 MW) completed the first stage of filling its reservoir in July 2020 with 4.9 billion cubic metres of storage and is expected to become operational in 2023. The Genale-Dawa III multipurpose project (254 MW) also connected to the Ethiopian electricity grid.

South and Central Asia

• In February 2021 a glacier burst in the Indian state of Uttarakhand tragically led to multiple fatalities and severely damaged two hydropower projects that were under construction.

• In 2020, despite delays to a number of projects as a result of the pandemic, just over 1.6 GW of new capacity was commissioned, mainly in India, Russia, Israel, Georgia and Pakistan.

• In India, a nine-minute mass dimming of lights to show solidarity during the pandemic resulted in a huge drop in demand of 31 GW and a subsequent swift ramping up. India’s power system planners relied on hydropower to manage the extreme fluctuation in demand.

• In Israel, the 300 MW Mount Gilboa pumped storage hydropower facility began commercial operations - the only pumped storage facility outside of China to commission in 2020. It operates under an innovative financing mechanism that pays for plant availability over an 18-20 year timeframe.

East Asia and Pacific

• The momentum of divesting from fossil fuels continued to grow across the region, as China, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN countries announced pledges to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

• In 2020, China added a total of 13.76 GW of new hydropower capacity, including 1.2 GW of pumped storage from the last four units of Jixi project.

• China’s 10.2 GW Wudongde project is scheduled to be fully operational by July 2021 and will be the country’s fourth-largest and the world’s seventh-largest hydropower project upon completion.

• Malaysia formally recognised ‘large hydropower’ as part of its renewable energy definition, in line with other countries internationally.

• Pumped storage projects in Australia made significant progress, including Snowy 2.0, the Battery of the Nation and the Marinus Link.

Visit our in-depth regional profiles for further information:

Regional profiles

AFRICA
EAST ASIA & PACIFIC
EUROPE

SOUTH AMERICA
SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA
NORTH & CENTRAL AMERICA

Regional profiles

Find out more about hydropower development in all regions of the world: 

NORTH & CENTRAL AMERICA
SOUTH AMERICA
EUROPE
AFRICA
SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA
EAST ASIA & PACIFIC

Sector developments

News in brief about key trends and policy issues affecting hydropower:

Clean energy systems

A defining year for pumped storage hydropower

The impacts of Covid-19 and extreme weather events have demonstrated the solutions pumped storage hydropower can offer to combat a growing list of challenges facing grid operators. During the height of global lockdowns, electricity demand declined by up to 30 per cent. Over these periods of low electricity demand, pumped storage was hailed by the Financial Times as the “first line of defence in the battle to keep Britain’s lights on”. In November 2020 the International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower launched as a government-led multi-stakeholder platform to shape and enhance the role of PSH in future power systems. The forum is co-chaired by the U.S. Department of Energy and former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull.

IEA report models a doubling of hydropower capacity to achieve net zero

To successfully limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius, reducing global CO₂ emissions to net zero is essential. The IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 report was released in May 2021, modelling how the global energy sector may successfully decarbonise by 2050. In the Net Zero Emissions (NZE) scenario, while solar PV and wind are modelled as generating the vast majority of electricity, hydropower will continue to steadily grow, “doubling by 2050” and becoming the largest single source of flexible electricity generation. Further to this, the report emphasised the role pumped storage hydropower could play, stating that it “offers an attractive means of providing flexibility over a matter of hours and days”. Hydrogen is described as potentially having an important role to play in longer term seasonal storage.

Coupling green hydrogen with hydropower could create a net zero future

Produced using decarbonised electricity and water through a process called electrolysis, green hydrogen is set to be an important component of the transition to net-zero carbon economies. As an emission-free gas it could provide a replacement for fossil fuels in key hard-to-abate sectors, including heavy industry, transport and shipping. In 2021 IHA released a research and policy paper, ‘The green hydrogen revolution: hydropower’s transformative role’, outlining how hydropower could be pivotal in supporting growth in green hydrogen. Most hydrogen is currently produced from fossil fuels, but 2050 projections by IRENA, the Hydrogen Council and others suggest renewable and low carbon green hydrogen could grow dramatically over the coming decades. The concluding sections of the paper set out recommendations to scale up production and the opportunities in coupling projects with clean hydropower.

IDB: ‘Significant potential’ in Latin America for pumped storage hydro

Pumped hydro energy storage holds significant potential for large-scale energy storage applications in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), especially considering the vast existing hydropower infrastructure in the region, according to the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB). Their report titled ‘State of Charge: Energy Storage in Latin America and the Caribbean’ examined the current and potential roles for energy storage technologies in LAC grids and provided recommendations on the regulatory and policy changes to accelerate uptake in the region. The report also suggested that the size of the global pumped storage industry has been estimated at US$300 billion and projected to grow to US$400 billion by 2026.

Near-blackout in Europe shows hydropower’s crucial role in green transition

In January 2021, a blackout event in Europe to rival that of the February 2021 Texas power crisis was only avoided by the narrowest of margins, according to an assessment by the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E). On 8 January 2021, the failure of a substation in Croatia triggered a dramatic increase in frequency in the south-east European grid and a corresponding drop in frequency in the north-west. Such a drop in frequency (or lack of supply) will normally result in major power failures and widespread blackouts if not resolved within a few seconds. Fortunately, disaster was averted thanks to the immediate ramping up of generation from flexible hydropower and gas peaking plants, as well as load shedding in France and Italy. While in this case the system worked as it was intended to, the narrowly avoided blackout highlights the importance of hydropower’s flexibility and storage services.

XFLEX HYDRO: Major step forward for EU funded hydropower initiative

The EU-funded XFLEX HYDRO initiative to demonstrate how smart hydropower technologies can deliver a low-carbon, reliable and resilient power system published its first major report in November 2020. The report assesses the future ancillary services expected to be required by the European power grid, technical requirements and corresponding markets. In April 2021, a battery energy storage system (BESS) container for the project also arrived at EDF’s Vogelgrun hydropower plant. Vogelgrun is a 142 MW run-of-river plant in France, where one of the plant’s Kaplan turbine units will be hybridised with the battery.

Investing in pumped storage can save energy system costs

A study by independent researchers from Imperial College London found that just 4.5 GW of new long duration pumped hydropower with 90 GWh of storage could save up to £690 million a year in energy system costs by 2050, as the UK transitions to a net zero carbon emission system. Commissioned by SSE Renewables, the report found that 75 Clean energy systems per cent of these cost savings came from the avoided capital cost of other sources of firm low carbon generation, further demonstrating the cost benefit and capabilities of pumped storage hydropower as a provider of short and long term system flexibility.

US DOE: New valuation guidebook for pumped storage

The new US Department of Energy published a valuation handbook, led by Argonne National Laboratory, that illustrates the value of investing in pumped storage. The guide measures both monetised and non-monetised value streams. For example planning a new project can examine effects of market rules and mechanisms, and the likelihood of recouping investment. Regulators can judge if a project is economical and predict when a new plant will have a positive impact on consumers’ electricity rates. A financial institution can find assurances before it approves loans or loan guarantees.

Finance and modernisation

IRENA outlook report underlines need for renewables investment

Energy transition investment will have to increase by 30 per cent over planned investment to a total of US$131 trillion between now and 2050, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The agency’s ‘1.5°C Pathway’ sees electricity becoming the main energy carrier in 2050 with renewable power capacity expanding more than ten-fold over the same period. The increase in investment would correspond to a global spend of US$4.4 trillion on average every year, including US$85 billion a year for hydropower, excluding pumped storage.

Hydropower sector receives green light for climate bond finance

The Climate Bonds Standard criteria for hydropower were launched in early 2021 representing a major milestone for the sector. CBI certified climate bonds are widely regarded as the best way to direct investment to infrastructure that supports the Paris Agreement while reducing negative impacts on the environment and communities. Following the announcement, developers, banks, governments and other investors can now issue certified climate bonds to finance or refinance hydropower projects that comply with strict social, environmental and climate criteria. Pumped storage, run-ofriver and impoundment facilities of any size are eligible. The criteria stipulates use of the Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool for assessing gaps against good practice as well as the G-res Tool for reporting net greenhouse gas emissions.

EU recognition of sustainable hydropower in investment rules

The European Commission made changes to its proposed investment criteria for hydropower, releasing an update to the EU Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act – a classification system for environmentally sustainable economic activities. The criteria for hydropower are now more context specific. Run-of-river plants or plants with a power density above 5W/m2 will not have to undertake a life cycle based GHG emission assessment to prove that they comply with the 100g threshold. Plants with a reservoir and a power density below 5W/m2 will have to confirm that they meet the threshold. Importantly, the act also now recognises all types of pumped storage hydropower as making a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation. The act is now aligned with hydropower sector good practice requirements described in the Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool, compliance with which is necessary to secure green bond financing through the Climate Bonds Initiative.

New guide on hydropower investment in Africa highlights opportunities

While hydropower is the main provider of renewable electricity in Africa with over 38 GW of installed capacity, the continent has the highest untapped potential in the world, with only 11 per cent utilised. Addleshaw Goddard, with assistance from IHA, released ‘An Investor’s Guide to Hydropower in Africa’ to provide investors with essential information to support the sustainable development of hydropower projects. According to the World Bank, around US$100 billion of infrastructure investment is needed in the region, however of the more than US$8 billion invested in infrastructure in 2017, less than 3 per cent came from the private sector. The new guide will help host governments, private investors, funding parties and in-country procuring entities understand the legal bankability issues, legal systems and law relevant to the hydropower sector of the 11 countries featured.

NHA paper identifies solutions for new pumped storage development

As part of the International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower, the National Hydropower Association has announced the submission of a pumped storage hydropower (PSH) policy paper aimed at identifying challenges and solutions to jump start development in the United States. NHA co-authored the U.S. Markets and Policy Paper with General Electric, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and PSH developers. The paper identifies the critical challenges, barriers and opportunities for accelerating pumped storage development in the U.S. Among these, the co-authors raise several challenges including: a lack of renumeration for various grid services, demonstrating the value of PSH over other storage technologies, inequitable policy treatment and revenue uncertainty as some of the barriers to PSH development. The paper identifies eight specific recommendations for policy changes across multiple jurisdictions including Congress, wholesale markets and state level policies.

Studies identify significant investment needs in hydropower modernisation

In 2020, IHA completed studies with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) identifying significant modernisation needs for the regions’ hydropower. In the case of Latin America, over 15 GW of the existing capacity was identified in high and urgent need of modernisation, with estimates of over US$5 billion investment required in the electrical and mechanical hydropower equipment. With regard to Asia, more than 6 GW was assessed as in high need of modernisation and representing around US$3 billion of investment potential. The studies shed light on the global issue of ageing hydropower capacity, and the scale of effort that will be required to rehabilitate and upgrade existing infrastructure. The studies also point out that modernisation projects present opportunities not only in extending the life of generating assets, but also in adding capacity and optimising plants for their future role in a renewable energy mix.

Climate and water

Landmark agreement between US hydropower and conservation groups

The United States’ hydropower industry joined forces with American Rivers, the World Wildlife Fund, and other environmental and river organisations released a joint statement of collaboration on U.S. hydropower to advance the renewable energy and storage benefits of hydropower and the environmental and economic benefits of healthy rivers. After a two-and-a-half year discussion, facilitated under Stanford University’s Uncommon Dialogue process, the parties have agreed to work together to address a range of challenges, including licensing and relicensing, dam safety, and valuing hydropower’s grid services.

HydroSediNET launches to promote sustainable sediment management

The HydroSediNET initiative launched as a global collaborative platform to connect experts and innovators supporting the planning, implementation and operation of effective and sustainable sediment management in storage reservoirs and run-of-river hydropower plants. Funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance and administered by the World Bank’s ESMAP Hydropower Development Facility, the initiative will bring together organisations who publish research and develop strategies for sediment management. The network is supported by seven founding members including IHA.

IEA reports on climate impacts on Africa and Latin American hydropower

The IEA launched a series of publications on climate impacts with contributions from IHA. The reports recognise vast differences between regions and recommend systematic assessments and resilience measures. Countries are urged to scale up the resilience of hydropower plants, mobilise investment in modernisation, foster climate risk insurance, and support climate research to improve projection accuracy.

New World Bank risk management guidance

The World Bank Group issued a new good practice note on dam safety. The guidance is accompanied by seven technical notes that provide more detailed explanation and guidance on hydrological risk, geotechnical risk, seismic risk, small dam safety, potential failure modes analysis, portfolio risk assessment, and tailings storage facilities. Since 2003, the Bank has financed over US$50 billion worth of investments that involve dams, including rehabilitation and upgrading of existing dams, construction of new facilities, and financing for preparatory studies for proposed dams.

Resilience rating system developed by World Bank

The World Bank has developed a Resilience Rating System that provides guidance and specific criteria to assess resilience. This system rates the confidence that expected investment outcomes will be achieved, based on whether a project has considered climate and disaster risks in its design, incorporated adaptation measures, and demonstrated economic viability despite climate risks. In addition, it rates a project’s contribution to adaptive development pathways based on whether investments are targeted at increasing climate resilience in the broader community or sector. IHA’s Hydropower Sector Climate Resilience Guide is highlighted as a key reference document for achieving resilience.

Research project to mitigate impacts on fish

Hydropower is part of the solution to protect the planet’s biosphere by tackling climate change. However hydropower projects need to avoid, minimise, mitigate or compensate for their impacts on freshwater species. A new FIThydro research project has been launched focusing on developing science-based cost-efficient environmental solutions and strategies to mitigate adverse impacts on the fish population.

Sustainability assessments

Projects achieve international good practice

The Dibwangui hydropower project in Gabon was rated as an example of international good practice in sustainability design and planning, following an independent assessment using the Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool. In addition, the Stortemelk hydropower project in South Africa was recognised as an impressive example of sustainable small hydropower development following its assessment using the tool. The Stortemelk project was the first to be assessed remotely using new remote assessment guidance. The methodology, issued in response to Covid-19 travel and safety restrictions, allows assessors to use drones, videoconferencing, live video inspection, satellite images, as well as online interviews and surveys, to conduct project assessments.

New chair of the hydropower sustainability council

One of the world’s leading experts on sustainable development, Dr Ashok Khosla, became independent chair of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, which governs sustainability guidance for hydropower. Dr Ashok Khosla was an adviser to the Brundtland Commission, chair of the NGO Forum at the Rio Summit and President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). One of the council’s first priorities is to introduce a Hydropower Sustainability Standard, a certification system built on the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, which will be launched at the World Hydropower Congress in September 2021.

How-to guides released for hydropower practitioners

Three new guides have been released by IHA for hydropower practitioners based on the Hydropower Sustainability Tools. The How-to Guide on Hydropower Resettlement helps companies design and implement resettlement schemes that respect the dignity and human rights of communities affected. Good practice requires a participatory process based on fairness and equity, with the aim of achieving a sustainable improvement in the lives of resettles. The How-to Guide on Downstream Flow Regimes aims to equip practitioners with adequate knowledge in river management to minimise downstream flow impacts while maximising project benefits. The How-to Guide on Hydropower Biodiversity and Invasive Species helps developers and operators better manage biodiversity impacts of hydropower projects. It also addresses the assessment and planning for invasive species management.

Launch of new hydropower sustainability training academy

IHA launched a training academy for sustainable hydropower, building on its 25 years of experience in developing guidance on hydropower development, as well as its expertise in delivering training and capacity building programmes. The Hydropower Sustainability Training Academy offers courses based on the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools in addition to the G-res tool, which was developed to assess greenhouse gas emissions of reservoirs.

The new global sustainability standard for hydropower

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council is developing a new global sustainability standard for hydropower, with support from the International Hydropower Association (IHA).

Under the proposal, hydropower projects around the world will be independently certified and rated for their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

The Hydropower Sustainability Standard will recognise leading projects, while giving all developers and operators the opportunity to strengthen their performance in line with international practices.

The Hydropower Sustainability Standard will build on the existing Hydropower Sustainability Tools, a set of guidelines and assessment tools aligned with World Bank standards.

Learn more

Privacy Policy