How is the hydropower industry responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

6 April 2020

IWP&DC takes a look at how the hydropower industry is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and what measures are being put in place by companies throughout the industry. This article is being constantly updated as we get new information so please share your company’s updates with us and we will add them here

Updated 8 April 2020

“This is a challenging time for everyone – for individuals affected by the virus, for the global economy, for businesses and for the hydropower sector more generally.” This sentence from CEO of the International Hydropower Association Eddie Rich really sums up the current situation we face.

Many of us are facing personal and business challenges, and as Rich states: “The world is learning a lot about itself from this pandemic, and there is clearly going to be a lot of pain over the next few months or even longer.”

The IHA has said it will continue to supports it members and partners and work to advance sustainable hydropower throughout this crisis. Its staff are working from home, and will be building and sharing knowledge and delivering services digitally. A great way to connect with the team is through the online community Hydropower Pro which will connect you with others in the industry from all parts of the globe. The IHA are also planning to launch new publications and develop and deliver new online events and training courses over the next few months.

“Covid-19 will reset our society and economy,” IHA President Roger Gill says. “There will be a rethink about energy systems and the pathways towards decarbonisation. There will be a rethink about our global interconnectivity and how we meet the sustainable development goals.”

The association says it is ready to voice the role of sustainable hydropower in delivering a better post-Covid society.

So what measures are hydropower companies currently taking to help deal with this crisis. We detail company policies below.

Mott MacDonald 

In response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Mott MacDonald implemented a Group Pandemic Response Plan in January 2020. This includes establishing a Group Pandemic Management Team that meets daily to coordinate and update its response while providing executive governance and oversight. It also has a full-time Pandemic Coordinator and dedicated teams in place that have developed detailed action plans.

Its approach is based on the latest available information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and International SOS Pandemic site. Given the evolving nature of COVID-19, the company is reviewing the situation daily and frequently communicating with staff and clients.

Mott MacDonald is complying with federal, state, provincial and local orders. In addition, the below actions are part of its pandemic response planning:

  • Implemented global and regional pandemic plans.
  • Scheduled regular calls to monitor the situation and determine Mott MacDonald’s response.
  • Established a global and North American pandemic coordinator.
  • Initiated remote working throughout the organization.
  • Postponed non-business-critical international and domestic travel.
  • Postponed gatherings, conference, events, etc.
  • Advised staff to avoid crowds and practice social distancing.
  • Report any staff exposure of confirmed COVID-19 cases to affected stakeholders.



ABB is accelerating remote connectivity for customer operations during the COVID-19 crisis

“During the COVID-19 crisis, governments and companies are having to make difficult choices, balancing people’s safety with economic livelihood. ABB is committed to supporting both: protect people, while helping businesses to stay operational during these challenging times,” said Peter Terwiesch, President Industrial Automation, ABB. “Remote services and digital solutions can make a major contribution to keep people safe, production running, and critical supply chains and economic livelihood preserved.”

As businesses are being directed to limit site work, the need remains to ensure that assets continue to operate across utilities, energy, process, hybrid and maritime industries, safeguarding food processing, power generation, water management, tissue production, data centers and the transportation of goods.

ABB is working with customers to ensure the access to field operators and service engineers who cannot be on-site at this time, by delivering control room livestreams, operational insights, process data and plant key performance indicators to users sheltering at home.

To ensure continuous operations, customers can access a suite of ABB remote-enabled solutions, including remote condition monitoring of critical assets; augmented reality maintenance support; online tools for training and spare parts stocking; and self-diagnoses that mitigate risk to assets, processes and security.

Many of these services are delivered to customers through ABB Ability Collaborative Operations, a suite of digitally enabled solutions and services, and its network of Collaborative Operations centers located around the globe. With 24/7 access, ABB domain experts and data scientists use digital technologies to help customers monitor assets, processes and risks; jointly derive insights from data; suggest mitigating actions; and provide critical remote assistance to help customers to keep production running.

Terwiesch continued: “We are committed to support our customers to run their operations safely, to keep the lights on, keep people connected, and help us all to weather this storm, together.”

ABB remote services


PJSC RusHydro has announced that it will donate RUB 100 million (US$1.32 million) to regions where it has a presence to purchase medical equipment, means of individual protection, medical supplies and to organize activities to help stop the spread of coronavirus infection.

The Board of Directors approved this decision at the meeting held in absentia on April 3, 2020, as well as approving the group’s updated Charity and Sponsorship program for 2020. RusHydro is currently making all reasonable efforts to locate and purchase artificial lung ventilation devices for treatment of patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection in its regions of presence.

Alongside allocating funds to fight the coronavirus, RusHydro accelerated execution of the previously approved charity and sponsorship program to provide financial aid to charity organizations, medical facilities and social institutions in 28 regions of presence.

RusHydro is closely monitoring uninterrupted electricity supply to medical facilities and pharmacies as well as availability of mobile communication and internet connection for the population, call centers, major logistics centers and commercial organizations. RusHydro’s electricity and heat supplying companies will not penalize consumers for late payments, effective from 1 April 2020.

Taking into account the necessity of uninterrupted electricity and heat production to the population, social and commercial infrastructure, RusHydro has taken all possible measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus at its facilities. Emergency response teams are constantly monitoring the epidemic status and cooperating with the sanitary epidemiological authorities.

Over 80% of head office employees are working remotely. The personnel employed at operating facilities sre working on rotating shifts. Their schedules are optimized to avoid crossing with one another. All employees are provided with safety means and temperature is measured regularly. Workplaces are treated daily with disinfectants, and air conditioning and ventilation systems are disabled as well.

In the event of tightening measures, RusHydro Group’s facilities are working out an action plan of complete self-sufficient isolation of its operating personnel without any communication from external environment.




Global design and engineering firm, SMEC, agrees that any company’s highest priorities right now must be the safety and wellbeing of its employees, clients and communities. 

With more than 80 offices in over 35 countries, SMEC is focused on complying with the advice of local authorities and taking all necessary precautions. The firm has placed restrictions on all travel and is encouraging employees to work from home wherever possible. 

“At the same time,” says Hari Poologasundram, CEO, SMEC & CEO International, Surbana Jurong Group, “we have activated our Business Continuity Plans to ensure that we can continue to support our clients and minimise business disruption as much as possible.” 

“We are fortunate that as a global company, SMEC is accustomed to flexible work practices. We’ve had remote working arrangements and the technology in place to support global workshare and communication for some time now. This means we are well equipped to deal with remote management of projects and support our clients in this extraordinary time. Project updates, design reviews and many other operational and business activities are proceeding as planned through digital technology.”

While events and conferences have been cancelled, SMEC is looking at innovative ways to continue to share knowledge and expertise with clients and industry partners, for example holding technical webinars and contributing articles to industry news platforms. 

“This is a challenging time for our communities around the world as we respond to COVID-19 and the uncertainty surrounding it,” states Mr Poologasundram. 

“SMEC is conducting ongoing and real time reviews to monitor the situation – in some cases we are communicating with our employees almost daily.  

“We are committed to working closely together with a shared focus on the health and safety of our employees and the broader community.”

Manitoba Hydro

Manitoba Hydro is scaling back work and suspending travel in and out of the Keeyask hydro project’s construction site to help protect the safety and health of workers as well as residents of nearby communities from the introduction and spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The decision follows guidance and direction from senior Manitoba Health officials and is expected to last between four and eight weeks. Manitoba Hydro says it will continue to evaluate the suspension based on the latest information and guidance received from provincial health authorities.

Approximately 600 supervisory, construction, and support staff have volunteered to remain at site, and will focus on achieving the in-service date for the hydroelectric station’s first two generating units.

“These are extraordinary times and we are making this decision in the interest of public health and the best interests of our customers, employees, contractors, and neighbouring communities,” says Jay Grewal, President and Chief Executive Officer of Manitoba Hydro. “These measures are temporary in nature and will be re-assessed based on guidance we receive from Manitoba Health officials in a few weeks.”

For employees and contractors who remain at Keeyask, Manitoba Hydro is continuing to follow the preventative and proactive measures outlined in the Keeyask Pandemic Plan, which is informed by Manitoba Health; Health Canada; and the World Health Organization (WHO). These measures include:

The requirement that anyone on-site with symptoms of an illness get checked out by the Nurse Practitioner. The Nurse Practitioner will assess the individual following Manitoba Health issued guidelines and if they are recommended for further assessment off-site, the individual will be immediately isolated in special rooms set aside for that purpose, and transferred off-site as soon as it can be arranged following Manitoba Health protocols.

Increased cleaning protocols; reminders around camp, offices, and the work trailers detailing proper recommended personal hygiene practices; implementing social distancing by suspending gym classes and intramural activities, closing the on-site theatre, and providing only take-out meals from the Dining Hall.

The Keeyask Project is a 695-megawatt hydroelectric generating station under construction in northern Manitoba. It is a collaborative effort between Manitoba Hydro and four Manitoba First Nations — Tataskweyak Cree Nation and War Lake First Nation (acting as the Cree Nation Partners), York Factory First Nation, and Fox Lake Cree Nation — working together as the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership (KHLP).

Keeyask generating station. Courtesy Barnard Construction


Entura said it is committed to the health and safety not only of its people, but also of clients and communities, including the contacts it makes internationally and around Australia.

Managing Director Tammy Chu says: “As an international consulting firm, travel restrictions may affect the ability of our people to interact with you in person. In this ongoing situation, there may be times when we need to delay or withdraw our people from certain jurisdictions. 

“As of 16 March 2020, Entura has banned all travel to high-risk countries and restricted all other international travel to essential only with subsequent quarantine requirements. Domestic travel in Australia is also restricted to essential travel only at this time. If government or business policies further affect the travel of our staff or visitors, we will work with you to determine alternative solutions and the best way forward.

“We will make every effort to ensure the progress of our projects, in support of our vision to create the safe and sustainable power and water solutions that make a positive and enduring contribution to our clients and communities.

“We look forward to the global resolution of the COVID-19 situation, and will soon bring you our usual Natural Thinking newsletter, with insightful articles and updates on news, training and project activities.”


Statkraft says it is closely monitoring the development of the COVID-19 outbreak and is taking continuous measures in line with the advice of national health authorities.

Statkraft is one of Europe's largest suppliers of renewable energy and has a central role at all times in delivering critical infrastructure, such as electricity and district heating. Statkraft is also a global market participant in energy trading.

All Statkraft operation teams are well equipped to handle the situation and generate electricity even if employees are to become infected or ill, the company said in a statement. Its mission as a power producer and district heating supplier means that personnel working in key operational functions must be at work. Statkraft carefully prioritizes resources to safeguard the safe and stable operation of the power plants.

Statkraft has implemented several measures in the operational units, including split teams, reducing travels and attendance at meetings. Home office solutions has been introduced and meetings are being conducted through the extensive use of digital communication. Cleaning and other hygiene measures are also intensified.

In addition to focusing on the daily operations, flood protection and regulation of water levels is also a priority for Statkraft in its hydropower operations.

The company is continually assessing how its construction projects should relate to the spread of the virus and the various consequences it provides.

Affoldern power plant is located along the Eder River in Affoldern in Hessen, Germany. Courtesy Statklraft

US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR)

The US Bureau of Reclamation has temporarily suspended public visitation to many of its dam sites in accordance with the social distancing standards recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It says water deliveries and powerplant operations will continue without interruption. Mission essential functions, including security and law enforcement, will also continue.

BC Hydro

BC Hydro is taking steps to protect staff and facilities to ensure it is continuing to provide reliable power to customers.

It says it has isolated key areas, including its control centre. To reduce exposure and face-to-face interactions, it has temporarily closed its walk-in customer service desks and indefinitely suspended all non-essential business travel, public meetings and site tours, including closing the powerhouse at Stave Falls Visitor Centre and Elk Falls Discovery Centre. 

At Site C dam, it says its top priority is the health and safety of employees, contractors and the public. It will focus only on essential work and critical milestones to help reduce the number of workers staying at the worker accommodation lodge, resulting in fewer workers travelling to and from Fort St. John and the Peace Region.

Over the coming days, BC Hydro will be working with project contractors and unions to safely scale back certain construction activities at the project site. One of the areas the project will continue to make a priority is work required to achieve river diversion in fall 2020.

Other essential work such as keeping the site secure and meeting the project’s environmental commitments will continue as planned. In addition, work will continue in areas off-site, including the realignment of Highway 29, work on the transmission line and reservoir clearing, as the majority of these workers do not stay in the worker accommodation lodge.

It says it has been monitoring COVID-19 closely since January and implemented a number of measures early on to protect its employees, contractors and facilities. This includes working closely with the Northern Health Authority on its protocols at the worker accommodation lodge and to ensure the on-site health clinic is fully-stocked with the supplies needed to protect workers in the event of an outbreak.

Additional measures that were taken include more frequent cleaning and disinfecting, restricting non-essential travel, postponing all on-site tours and meetings, eliminating self-service stations in the dining room and restricting access to common areas.

It is continuing to monitor the situation closely and will implement new measures as the situation progresses based on information and advice provided by health authorities.

Site C project. Courtesy BC Hydro

China Yangtze Power Co

To combat the COVID-19 epidemic, a team working for China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG) ensured the Three Gorges hydropower project continued the supply of safe, reliable electric power during the outbreak. 

The team implemented virus curbing measures to ensure workers’ health and safety. The plant prepared a prompt Support Plan for the Epidemic Containment and Work Safety. A general survey was conducted by a dedicated team to collect necessary information such as locations and potential exposure of 563 employees and their families. A daily report system was launched to understand their health conditions. The team also coordinated the supply of protective products for staff working at the dam area, including disposable surgical face masks, disinfectors, protective suits, hand sanitizers, medicinal use of alcohols, medical gloves and other total 50,000 products. Isolation rules were applied in the administrative areas, plant and living areas.

On-line platforms allowed the company to share messages to groups, and distribute brochures of how to contain the virus and help all employees understand the science and how to protect themselves. The labor union assisted workers with any emotional needs and to help ensure no misinformation was created or spread. 

A work rotation plan was set up for hydropower plant which included creating a back up team. Equipment management and patrol inspections were reinforced to ensure the quality of power provision during the outbreak would not be compromised. Since January 24, the plant has raised power output and peak load regulating capacity that enabled its peak loads to reach 4800MW. It hit a new high for start up / shut down of the units - 21 times in a day.

For water replenishment, the daily average outflow from the Three Gorges Reservoir was around 7000m3/sec, with a total 8bn m3 delivered downstream. This meant peak demand for electricity and water supply in areas like Wuhan was met, and a steady electric power was transferred to companies and households.

Three Gorges dam. Wikimedia Commons

Ontario Power Generation

OPG plays a vital role in the wellbeing of Ontario by generating half of its electricity. This includes reliably powering hospitals, care facilities, clinics, and communities across the province. That is why the company has taken steps to ensure the ongoing safe generation of electricity, while protecting the women and men who perform this critical work.

OPG has asked employees not directly involved in running its stations to work from home. Operationally, it has activated a Crisis Management Communications Centre, which provides executive level oversight, an Infectious Disease Incident Response Team and robust business continuity plans. These plans are well documented and practiced on a regular basis and are currently running smoothly, Ken Hartwick, President and CEO of OPG, said in a statement.

All of its generating units are operating normally, and critical initiatives like Darlington Nuclear’s Unit 2 refurbishment and preparations for the upcoming freshet, continue as planned.


The Australian utility Sunwater values said its number one priority is the health and wellbeing of its customers and people.

It said it hasmeasures in place to ensure water is available when and where customers need it. At this stage, there is no impact on its infrastructure or disruptions to water supply.

It has undertaken a number of activities to prepare and respond including:

  • Creating a dedicated team to monitor the situation as it unfolds
  • Reviewing and improving effective hygiene practices across all work sites and offices
  • Working closely with our people to ensure they are safe, receive the support they need and understand self-isolation requirements if returning from overseas or feeling unwell
  • Ensuring it has appropriate continuity plans and rosters in place for critical operational and customer service teams and having the majority of our people working from home
  • Limiting non-essential travel, meetings and other gatherings involving face-to-face interactions – where possible.


Minesto said it is closely following developments related to the coronavirus disease COVID-19 to assess how governmental actions and restrictions around Europe might affect operations and project activities. To date, the company has reported no negative impact on incoming components and subsystem deliveries. The major kite system components for Minesto’s Faroe Islands project are assembled and are currently being factory tested and commissioned. Minesto is targeting installation of the first DG100 system in the second quarter of 2020.


In a statement on its website, Kleinschmidt said it is following all state and federal guidance intended to slow the spread of the virus and to help people stay healthy. It has established an internal committee headed by its CEO to keep abreast of the most recent guidance which in turn will inform company actions as the situation evolves. It has restricted travel, except for mission critical projects where it can manage the risk to employees and are replacing in-person meetings with virtual meetings when possible. 

It said it remains committed to serving its clients to the best of its ability under a variety of potential situations. Its employees have the necessary tools and technology to work from home, which will help minimize disruptions to workflow during quarantines or shelter in place orders. In the event of illness, its specialized labor force is multi-layered and will allow work duties to be transferred to employees with similar skills or to higher skilled staff that can fill in as needed. 

Finally, it says it will continue to strive to understand how it can help customers, not just with specific project needs or deliverables, but how it might be able to help you overcome any obstacle created by the COVID-19 crisis at your facility or project. To that end, project managers are personally contacting all clients to discuss impacts related to the pandemic.

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