EME 444
Global Energy Enterprise

Global Hydropower and Sustainability


Global Trends

In the 2016 International Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration projects that most new hydroelectric development will take place in non-OECD countries, especially non-OECD Asia, particularly China and Vietnam. In their 2016 Hydropower Report, the International Hydropower Association identified the following key trends and developments driving this growth:

  • New international policy and agreements
  • Advanced hydropower control technologies enabling renewable hybrids
  • Climate aspects
  • The value of pumped storage being recognized worldwide
  • New financial instruments
  • Climate bonds attracting strong interest
  • Mergers and acquisitions pointing to a larger role for the private sector
  • The China sector going global
  • Transformative projects in Africa
  • Hydropower driving regional connection

To Read Now

Visit the International Hydropower Association and download and read the 2016 Key Trends in Hydropower report.

Hydropower and Sustainability

The World Bank supports the "responsible development of hydropower projects of all sizes and types—run of the river, pumped storage, and reservoir—including off-grid projects meeting decentralized rural needs." In a world where more than a billion people lack access to electricity, and the quality of life it provides, hydropower has great promise, if done responsibly.

To Read Now

Visit the World Bank and read Hydropower Overview. Read through the content on all three tabs at the top - Context, Strategy, and Results.

The World Bank overview concludes with this potent paragraph: "While hydropower development offers great opportunities, it also comes with complex challenges and risks that vary significantly by the type, place, and scale of projects. Factors such as resettlement of communities, flooding of large areas of land, and significant changes to river ecosystems must be carefully considered and mitigated."

In 2010, an international Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol was launched. According to the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol: "The Protocol was developed through 30 months (2008–10) of cross-sector engagement, including a review of the World Commission on Dams Recommendations, the World Bank Safe Guard Policies and the IFC Performance Standards. During this period, a multi-stakeholder forum jointly reviewed, enhanced, and built consensus on what a sustainable project should look like." This protocol involved "representatives of environmental NGOs (WWF, The Nature Conservancy), social NGOs (Oxfam, Transparency International), development banks, governments (China, Zambia, Iceland, Norway), and the hydropower sector."

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol addresses the three pillars of sustainability for hydropower: environmental, social, and economic. Environmental issues include those arising from hydropower construction and operation related to broad areas of water quality, sedimentation, and habitat. While hydropower has the potential to reduce poverty and improve quality of life, it can also be the cause of population displacement and other negative social impacts on local and indigenous communities. Hydropower can be a tool of economic development with many benefits for local communities, if (big IF), economic benefits are distributed equitably between "the government, the project proponents, and stakeholders who receive the electricity services and the local communities who bear the impacts of a development."

To Read Now

Visit the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, and browse the Home page and the overview page.

You'll use info in the About Sustainability tab as part of this lesson's assignment.

For an EXCELLENT discussion of river-related environmental factors, review the following. This is not required reading, but highly recommended.

From the Foundation for Water & Energy Education, see: