A new framework for sustainable hydropower

Hydropower accounts for approximately 16 per cent of the world’s supply of electricity and is one of the key renewable technologies to address the growing challenges of global warming. However, building hydroelectric plants has frequently disrupted of the lives of affected populations: people lose their homes and their livelihoods deteriorate significantly.

Add to this the potential for corruption from the project planning stage right through to project preparation, implementation and operation and its often unmitigated environmental consequences and it is clear that for hydropower to play an appropriate role in addressing the rapidly growing needs for renewable energy, it must be done right for both existing and new projects

For more than two years, key players in the hydropower sector have worked together with civil society to develop a framework for assessing the impact of hydro electric plants. This tool is called the Hydro Sustainability Assessment Protocol and it is being launched on June 16 at the World Congress on Sustainable Hydro Development in Iguaçu, Brazil, near one of the world’s largest hydroelectric facilities at Itaipú.

The Protocol was developed by the International Hydropower Association (IHA), an industry association, in collaboration with representatives of governments from China, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Zambia, financing organisations (including bilateral donors, multilateral financing institutions and commercial banks), and representatives of civil society including, Oxfam, The Nature Conservancy, Transparency International and World Wildlife Fund.

What is the Protocol?

The Protocol is a new approach to promote best practice in hydropower sustainability.

The Protocol offers a consistent, globally-applicable method to assess performance in over twenty vital areas of sustainability. For example, there are aspects that outline what happens to the indigenous populations, ecosystems and downstream populations that will be affected by the building of a hydropower project.

Based on objective analysis and documented evidence, the results of a Protocol assessment of a hydropower project or facility are presented in a standardised structure and diagram, allowing transparent communication and rapid interpretation. Assessments rely on objective evidence to support a score for each topic, which is factual, reproducible, objective and verifiable. The design of the Protocol reflects the results of pilot studies in 13 countries and consultation with close to 2,000 individuals in 28 countries.

The Protocol, which can be used at all stages of hydropower development, gives scores from 1 to 5 (with a score of 1 representing major risks and 5 representing best practice) across a range of topics, resulting in a detailed sustainability profile of a hydropower project. The Protocol does not give a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ result, rather it provides a more nuanced analysis of project sustainability.

Transparent accountability

For the first time, the Protocol includes topics or sections that set out detailed requirements for project developers to explicitly identify and address corruption risks at all relevant levels: macroeconomic, sectoral, institutional and project. The sections draw extensively on TI´s tools and experience, including Integrity Pacts and the Business Principles for Countering Bribery. TI´s private sector and public sector procurement teams provided important contributions.

The Protocol was the subject of one of the Workshops at the IACC in Bangkok in November 2010. Among the participants were representatives of TI´s Chapters in Germany, Ghana, Kenya and Pakistan, who expressed interest in being kept informed on the progress of the Protocol.

What next?

The goal is to gain widespread acceptance and use of the Protocol. The IHA is developing training materials and will organize workshops to train assessors to undertake the assessments. It is important that the Protocol is used consistently and that the assessment results are well communicated. In addition, the IHA is continuing to work with the organisations involved in developing the Protocol, including TI, to develop appropriate and transparent Protocol governance arrangements to oversee the implementation of the Protocol.

The first project on which the agreed Protocol was used was the 100 MW Shardara Hydroelectric Project in Kazakhstan.

Resources

IHA press release about the Protocol, 16 June 2011

Hydro Sustainability Assessment Protocol

International Hydropower Association

Water Integrity Network

Case Study Sustainability Assessment – Shardara, Kazakhstan

Donal O’Leary explains why the new protocol is so important and what role Transparency International played in its development.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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