New hydropower certification and labeling scheme launched

The Hydropower Sustainability Standard was launched Sept. 8 at the International Hydropower Association’s World Hydropower Congress and will help to ensure that hydropower projects across the world are recognized and certified for their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

Developed by a coalition of industry, governments, multilateral and financial institutions and civil society organizations, the certification scheme 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 is launched after a public consultation by the Hydropower Sustainability Council, with the support of 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.

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

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

“To meet the critical challenge of climate change, we urgently need greater investment in renewable energy such as hydropower,” Dr Khosla said. “Due to the scale of investment required, the hydropower sector needs a credible, transparent certification scheme that will incentivise the best projects. This will give communities, governments and investors greater confidence about their net benefits and how impacts on the local environment are mitigated.”

IHA said it would expect its members to certify new projects under the Hydropower Sustainability Standard, in line with the organization’s updated membership charter. Achieving certification will help demonstrate alignment with the green bond requirements of the Climate Bonds Initiative and the EU Taxonomy for Sustainable Investment, as well as with World Bank and IFC performance standards.

“Hydropower is at the heart of the energy transition alongside wind and solar,” said IHA Chief Executive Eddie Rich. “The Hydropower Sustainability Standard is a clear and simple system to certify and assure hydropower projects as meeting minimum environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance expectations. It will address any confusion about whether a new hydropower project is sustainable and will, crucially, help to unblock green investment and licensing decisions.”

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 CHF1 million (US$ 1.02 million) is available for 40 or more projects over four years. The Hydropower Sustainability ESG Assessment Fund is managed by IHA’s non-profit sustainability division and funded by the Swiss government’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

IHA is a non-profit membership organization with a mission to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions.