Greening of the Hydropower Sector? What Difference does a Voluntary Sustainability Assessment Tool Make?

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific and ANU College of Health & Medicine

Meeting growing demands for electricity creates difficult decisions across energy security, economic development, environmental sustainability and climate change. Hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy in the electricity sector. It is a mature technology, with low carbon-intensity, and can provide a range of non-energy services, such as water supply. However, hydropower developments are often controversial due to the potential for negative social and environmental impacts. The technical and economic potential is available for the global hydropower sector to double in size by 2050, but this expanded deployment is contingent on careful management of environmental and social concerns.

A key challenge for stakeholders in hydropower developments has been to agree on, develop and implement common approaches for sustainable practice across a range of contexts. Hydropower developers, social and environmental NGOS and governments have recently supported the development and implementation of a new sustainability assessment framework for hydropower: the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (see www.hydrosustainability.org).

The Protocol outlines the pathway for hydropower developers towards continuous improvement in sustainability performance. It is suitable for application in developing and developed country contexts and across projects of various design and scale. Projects are evaluated against basic good and proven best practice criteria for topics covering technical, governance, financial, environmental and social considerations highly material to hydropower developments. A multi-sectoral council governs Protocol use, and official assessments are done by accredited assessors.

This presentation will describe the Protocol, its status and experiences from its application. The audience is invited to engage with the presenter on whether this initiative makes a difference in facilitating better energy development choices and achieving progress towards sustainable development.

About the Speaker

Dr Helen Locher is an Accredited Lead Assessor for the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. She has extensive experience developing and leading environmental and social improvement programs for Hydro Tasmania, and has also held board roles on statutory commissions for resource planning and environmental protection in Tasmania. Helen has played a leading role in development and implementation of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, including leading a number of early assessments, coordinating the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (2008-2010), and developing training materials for IHA Sustainability Partners and Accredited Assessors. Helen has participated in and led Protocol assessments in Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Iceland, India, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and South Africa.