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Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol


The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is a tool for assessing projects across a range of social, environmental, technical and economic topics. It provides an international common language on how these considerations can be addressed at all stages of a project's lifestyle: planning, preparation, implementation and operation.

You can find more information about the protocol at

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Protocol assessments use objective evidence to create a sustainability profile, which can be used to identify gaps and drive continuous improvement.

Protocol assessments are delivered by fully accredited assessors who have previous experience of the hydropower sector or relevant sustainability issues, and participate in at least two assessments as trainees prior to attending an accreditation course.



How the protocol was created

The protocol was developed through 30 months (2007–10) of cross-sector engagement, and a review of IHA’s previous sustainability tools, the World Commission on Dams Recommendations, the Equator Principles, the World Bank Safe Guard Policies and the IFC Performance Standards.

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During this period, a multi-stakeholder forum jointly reviewed, enhanced and built consensus on what a sustainable project should look like. This forum included representatives of environmental NGOs (WWF, The Nature Conservancy), social NGOs (Oxfam, Transparency International), development banks (The World Bank), governments (China, Zambia, Germany, Iceland, Norway), and the hydropower sector. 

A draft of the Protocol was released in 2009, which was trialled in 16 countries across six continents, and subjected to further consultation. A final version was produced in 2010. In parallel, a Governance Council was formed to govern the Protocol going forward, using the same multi-stakeholder approach used to create it. 


IHA Sustainability Partnerships

As the protocol’s managing body, we have initiated a ‘Sustainability Partnerships’ scheme to promote its uptake and development worldwide. Through these partnerships, we work with our member companies to build capacity and understanding on how the protocol can be used in a range of contexts, through an iterative training process.

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The first Sustainability Partnerships were established alongside the launch of the protocol in 2011, and the take-up by members has been extensive. In total, 23 Sustainability Partnerships have been established since the initiative began, 19 of which are with IHA members. 

The partnerships cover a wide geography (Austria, Brazil, China, Columbia, Croatia, Ghana, Iceland, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Sweden, Vietnam), projects of many sizes (projects capable of supplying 0.1–6% of the UK’s annual energy demand), and a range of project stages, from early conceptual stages to projects which have been operating for many years. 

As a result of our continued engagement, we are working with existing partners to reassess projects to monitor improvements, and some partners are choosing to undertake training on new projects. In 2015 we are applying the protocol for the first time in Africa, through a Sustainability Partnership funded by Swiss government agency SECO.

We are also now working with the first sustainability partner in India (Jindal Power) to apply the protocol on a new hydropower project that will be the country’s largest, and also with the first Chinese sustainability partner (China Three Gorges Corporation) to assess a project in Laos.

You can see a map of IHA Sustainability Partners here.


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