Global support for ‘game-changing’ new hydropower certification scheme

8 September 2021

A new sustainability certification scheme for hydropower was launched today at the World Hydropower Congress, with leading hydropower companies and international organisations declaring their support.

The Hydropower Sustainability Standard has been developed by a coalition of industry, governments, multilateral and financial institutions and civil society organisations to help to ensure that hydropower projects across the world are recognised and certified for their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.  It aims to build trust and promote transparency in the hydropower sector. 

“This new certification system is a game-changer for hydropower and is unmatched in the renewables sector,” commented Ashok Khosla, Chair of the Hydropower Sustainability Council which issued the new certification system.

The Hydropower Sustainability Standard wass launched following a public consultation by the Hydropower Sustainability Council, with the support of the International Hydropower Association (IHA). The Standard is cited in the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower, to be issued at the conclusion of the World Hydropower Congress, as the means to demonstrate a project’s sustainability.

Hydropower projects will have to meet strict ESG performance criteria following an independent assessment to be awarded a new Certified Sustainable Hydropower label. Projects can be certified during planning, construction and operation, and the highest performers will be recognised with Silver and Gold certification status. 

Leading members of IHA have declared their support for the new certification scheme. Developers, operators and manufacturers – from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iceland, Sarawak (Malaysia), the United Kingdom and the United States – have either already confirmed they will put forward projects for certification or have urged their clients to comply with the new standard. 

International organisations including the International Energy Agency (IEA), conservation groups, as well as former government heads have stated support for the new industry assurance system. 

“As the largest private-sector power producer in Brazil, ENGIE is fully committed to keep deploying social and environmental best practices in its activities and is pleased to contribute to the elaboration of the Hydropower Sustainability Standard,” commented  Eduardo Sattamini, CEO of Engie-Brasil Energia

Sophie Brochu, President and CEO of Hydro-Québec, Canada, added: “We plan to use this new Hydropower Sustainability Standard to certify the Eastmain complex power plants in the James Bay region next year. We are proud to have played an active role in the development of the tool”. 

“This new standard will be a world first in the renewables sector and will give decision makers and communities confidence that information on hydro projects can be relied upon,” commented Mark Wilson, CEO of Intelligent Land Investments (ILI) Group. “It will be the new gold standard for sustainable development ensuring environmental, social and governance (ESG) is put front and centre where it should be. ILI Group will be looking to have both our PSH projects, 450 MW 'Red John' at Loch Ness and our latest 600 MW 'Corrievarkie' at Loch Ericht, certified to the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.”

IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said: “We welcome the work done on [the] Hydropower Sustainability Standard by the Hydropower Sustainability Council and IHA in assembling a multi-stakeholder group and creating tools which set out best practices for the sector. While there is a strong potential for hydropower projects to grow, and I hope it will grow, it is important that new hydropower projects are in line with sustainability standards and this is in my view critical for the next years to come.”

Hydropower developers and operators seeking certification under the Hydropower Sustainability Standard can access a grant to part sponsor the cost of an independent project assessment. Up to 1 million Swiss Francs (US$ 1.02m) is available for 40 or more projects over four years. The Hydropower Sustainability ESG Assessment Fund is managed by the International Hydropower Association (IHA)’s non-profit sustainability division and funded by the Swiss government’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). 

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