As well as Sarawak Energy employees, participants in the training included representatives from Sarawak State Planning Unit, Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board, and the Sarawak Ministry of Public Utilities.

“Sarawak Energy is the first of the iha Sustainability Partners to receive training on the Protocol, representing a key milestone in the development of the Protocol as a tool to guide sustainability in the sector. The Protocol provides a common language around which issues of sustainability can be discussed and understood, and such training with multiple stakeholders contributes significantly to the process.” said Cameron Ironside, Programme Director, IHA

The week long training, which took place at the Parkcity Everly Hotel, and also onsite at hydropower projects in Sarawak, was facilitated by Ironside and Doug Smith, IHA Sustainability Specialist, with Dr Helen Locher, Principal Sustainability Consultant with Hydro Tasmania and Bernt Rydgren, Hydropower Consultant at ÅF Consult.

Owned by the State Government of Sarawak, Sarawak Energy has a history of more than 70 years as a utility company. With firm plans to develop at least seven new power stations and supporting transmission infrastructure before 2020, Sarawak Energy will become a leading producer of renewable energy in South East Asia. Presently, hydropower constitutes about 8% of Sarawak’s energy mix and is expected to grow up to 80% by 2020.

“We are proud to be the first of the IHA Sustainability Partners to receive training on the Protocol. More importantly, the knowledge gained will help us apply the highest levels of international sustainability best practice to all of our hydropower projects” said Haniza Hamid, Senior Manager Corporate Communications of Sarawak Energy.

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (Protocol), a comprehensive tool to assess the sustainability of hydropower projects globally, was launched on 16 June at the international-hydropower-association (IHA) 2011 World Congress on Advancing Sustainable Hydropower in Iguassu, Brazil. It provides a rigorous, evidence-based assessment of between 19-23 relevant sustainability topics, depending on the development stage of the project.

The Protocol is the product of a rigorous multi-stakeholder development process involving representatives from social and environmental NGOs (Oxfam, The Nature Conservancy, Transparency International, WWF); governments (China, Germany [as an observer], Iceland, Norway, Zambia); commercial and development banks (including banks that are signatory to the Equator Principles, and the World Bank [as an observer]); and the hydropower sector, represented by IHA.

The development process of the Protocol involved field trials in 16 countries, across six continents, and stakeholder engagement with 1933 individuals in 28 countries.

The Protocol topics cover the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental, and include issues such as downstream flow regimes, indigenous peoples, biodiversity, infrastructure safety, resettlement, water quality, and erosion and sedimentation.

The assessment tools are used as a framework to produce a sustainability profile for a hydropower project. In so doing, multiple stakeholders can become better informed on the sustainability profile of a project, and develop strategies to address any weaknesses.

Similar capacity building events will take place globally over the coming year. Implementation of the Protocol in the European Union is supported through Hydro4LIFE, a European Commission funded project. Hydro4LIFE will demonstrate the Protocol in the EU, raise awareness about the Protocol and serve to consolidate hydropower sustainability performance knowledge.

The project is 50% co-funded by the European Commission’s Life+ Environment Policy and Governance programme, and 50% by IHA, with a total budget of €1.2 million. It is coordinated by IHA and runs from 1st September 2010 to 1st September 2013.

Ten international organisations and companies, including Sarawak Energy, have already become early adopters by agreeing to implement the Protocol in at least one hydropower project within their sphere of influence. Known as IHA Sustainability Partners these are: EDF, E.ON, Itaipu Binacional, Hydro Equipment Association, Hydro Tasmania, Landsvirkjun, Manitoba Hydro, Odebrecht, Sarawak Energy, and Statkraft.

Sustainability Partners receive training on the content and application of the Protocol, an unofficial Protocol assessment and an official Protocol assessment. Other Sustainability Partner models are also available to meet the relevant needs of participating organisations.

Last month, Hydro Tasmania hosted a contingent of international visitors to conduct a world first sustainability assessment of the Trevallyn Power Station in Australia.