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At the inaugural meeting of the International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower, keynote speaker and former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged governments and industry to move quickly to develop projects at the scale needed to support the rapid roll-out of variable renewables.

“I believe we urgently need to raise awareness of pumped hydro and its vital role in the clean energy transition. This will require the industry to have a higher profile with the goal of engaging governments and heads of government to make it happen," he said.

“We have to get going. [Wind and solar power] can be built in months, but pumped hydro takes several years. Pumped hydro can provide short term storage and load following, as can batteries. But its real comparative advantage is that with sufficient scale in water and elevation it can provide days or even weeks of energy storage,” added Mr Turnbull at the virtual forum on 3 November 2020.

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) and the U.S. Department of Energy are leading the forum, which brings together 11 national governments and more than 70 organisations from the hydropower industry, financial institutions, academia and NGOs to share their experiences, build best practice and develop policy proposals that can help accelerate pumped storage development. The meeting was attended by 200 high-level participants from 40 countries.

International collaboration

In his opening address, Daniel R Simmons, Assistant Secretary for the U.S. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said: “We still need to have an electric grid which is incredibly reliable and pumped storage hydropower contributes greatly to this.

“We recognise with hydropower and with PSH that there needs to be international collaboration… because the challenges are very similar. For example, we want to recognise the XFLEX HYDRO project where more than a dozen partners have come together to demonstrate new hydropower technologies at locations across Europe.”

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 14,000 GW of additional variable wind and solar capacity is needed by 2050 to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement, and substantial levels of new investment in long-duration, low-carbon energy storage will be required to meet expected demand.

Pumped storage hydropower, also known as ‘the world’s water battery’ is a flexible, clean, dispatchable source of electricity. It is needed to facilitate increasing quantities of variable renewables, which require a back-up to ensure the stability of power systems.

IRENA has stated that global pumped storage hydropower capacity will need to double from nearly 160 GW today to 325 GW over the next 30 years, to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degree Celsius.

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) development however remains stagnant in many markets. Outside China, the world’s largest pumped storage producer, year-on-year installed capacity growth has been just 1.5 per cent since 2014.

Although several pumped storage facilities are under development across the United States, India and Australia, global growth has been constrained due to a combination of factors. These include a lack of awareness about the technology’s capabilities, complex permitting arrangements and outdated market and regulatory frameworks which fail to provide appropriate incentives for development.

Balancing power

During the forum, speakers emphasised the need to raise awareness about the benefits of sustainable pumped storage with policy and financial decision-makers globally, and to move quickly to progress new developments, to meet the requirements of the rapidly changing energy mix.

The World Bank’s Dr Demetrios Papathanasiou, Global Director of Energy and Extractives said: “Pumped storage hydropower is the only renewable option that can currently produce commercially viable balancing power to integrate variable renewable technologies at-scale.

“The potential for pumped storage appears to be enormous. We have plenty of sites in Africa, Asia, and Latin America…the challenge is in identifying the right sites, connecting them with the grid and using them as best we can in planning for the clean energy transition.”

Mr Benoit Revaz, State Secretary and Director, Swiss Federal Office of Energy, said: “We consider the forum timely and opportune because hydropower and PSH in particular are often not given the attention they deserve. Hydropower has been the backbone of Switzerland’s electricity system for more than a century.  

“A recent EU study shows that PSH is by far the main energy storage reservoir in Europe. However, the future looks uncertain and the study recognises that PSH faces regulatory and market barriers. We see a key role for this forum as raising awareness with policymakers about the benefits of hydropower and PSH.” 

Working groups

Mr Srikant Nagulapalli, Chairman, New & Renewable Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh Ltd commented: “We intend to transition from the conventional grid to a green grid over the next ten to 15 years… we will be forced to rely on some balancing source for absorbing this wind and solar. So, our plan is to establish at least 6,000 to 7,000 MW of pumped hydro projects in the State over the next ten years.” 

To unlock further PSH development, the Forum’s Steering Committee has identified the need for three working groups: ‘Policy and Market Frameworks, ‘Sustainability’, and ‘Capabilities, costs and innovation’. These working groups will bring together expertise from around the world to work on and help address these common challenges over the next 12 months.

Speaking on the Policy and Market Frameworks, Mr JC Sandberg, Managing Director of Global Government Affairs and Policy, GE Renewable Energy, said: “As the need for storage and grid support increases, pumped storage is the best large-scale energy storage solution” 
“There are roles for both batteries and pumped storage and there will be for the foreseeable future.  

“We can make some recommendations on policy and markets to allow governments to put in place the right legal and business conditions to ensure transparency and visibility.” 

Large scale power storage solution

The Sustainability working group will focus on environmental impacts/benefits of PSH development, testing PSH projects against existing sustainability tools like HESG Gap Analysis Tool, and assessing the territorial value creation of PSH assets for local communities.  

Commenting on this, Mr Antoine Malafosse, International Project Manager, EDF Hydro, said: “We need PSH for a sustainable economy… when it comes to a  sustainable socio-environmental impact, we have to demonstrate that PSH has a limited impact and that when it is negative, we have capacity to manage this impact using mitigation, minimisation or compensation.” 

Mr Klaus Krüger, Senior Expert Plant Safety & Energy Storage Solutions, Voith Hydro, reinforced the importance of pumped storage as an established technology when speaking on the Capabilities, Costs & Innovation working group: “PSH is the only proven large scale power storage solution for 112 years.” 

He described the key aims for this group as: improving understanding of PSH and its role in providing storage and flexibility services, to address the needs of future electricity systems; assessing how it compares with other energy storage technologies; raising awareness with policy makers, the media and other audiences; and highlighting the latest technological innovations in PSH. 

Mr Richard Taylor, Strategic Adviser, XFLEX HYDRO, stated that one of the biggest opportunities for the Forum is to enable a better understanding of storage within the hydro sector and broader policy audiences, as well as those responsible for designing the markets that will determine future energy investment.  

“We need to raise awareness about the options when designing pumped storage projects. The XFLEX HYDRO initiative is demonstrating new technologies in terms of digitalisation, variable speed and fixed speed, at seven sites across Europe.”

Find out more by reading the press release.

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IHA and the U.S. Department of Energy will this week launch a global initiative of 11 governments and more than 60 organisations aimed at addressing the urgent need for clean and reliable energy storage.

The International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower will develop policy proposals and exchange knowledge on the technical and market reforms necessary to overcome barriers to sustainable pumped storage hydropower projects, known as the ‘world’s water batteries’.

The initiative, to be launched on 3 November 2020, will bring together the governments of the USA, Austria, Brazil, Estonia, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Morocco, Norway and Switzerland, as well as international financial institutions, non-profit organisations and leading energy companies such as EDF, GE Renewable Energy, Voith and Hydro Tasmania.


Former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, a leading advocate for pumped storage hydropower at home and abroad, will give a keynote address at the inaugural virtual forum to more than 100 high-level representatives of the partner organisations. 

Daniel R Simmons, Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, commented: “With this initiative we have an opportunity to help ensure that pumped storage hydropower will play an important role in our power systems today and into the future.

“Several developers have plans to build new pumped storage hydropower plants in the United States, and we hope the work of this forum will help them get those plants built, to help make the grid of the future more reliable and robust.”

Eddie Rich, CEO of IHA, commented: “The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has stated that pumped storage hydropower, which provides most of the world’s energy storage capacity, needs to nearly double by 2050 to meet ambitious global climate targets. The good news is that there is massive potential, including over 600,000 potential off-river sites that have recently been identified, plus opportunities for modernising existing plants.

“Over the next year, the forum’s partners are expected to exchange good practices and agree proposals to clear the way for an upsurge in pumped storage developments while also looking at ways to improve the sustainability and efficiency of existing facilities.”

Benefits of pumped storage

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is an ideal complement to modern clean energy systems as it can accommodate for the variability and seasonality of fast-growing solar and wind power. It enjoys several distinct advantages over other forms of energy storage due to its long asset life, large storage capacity, low-lifetime cost and reduced dependence on imported raw materials.

Pumped storage hydropower is the world's largest energy storage technology, accounting for over 94 per cent of installed energy storage capacity. IHA estimates that PSH projects now store at least 9,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity globally.

As the International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated, pumped storage hydropower is the ‘often-overlooked workhorse’ of system flexibility. To cope with growing demands placed on power grids created by the transition away from fossil fuels and the rapid rise in variable renewables, significant investments are needed, from both the public and private sectors, in the long-duration, low-carbon storage that PSH provides.  

Similarly, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates under its ‘Transforming Energy Scenario’ – setting out what is needed to hold the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degree Celsius (°C) – that global pumped storage hydropower capacity will need to double from nearly 160 GW today to 325 GW over the next 30 years.

Despite being an ideal source of clean energy storage to integrate wind and solar power, worldwide growth in pumped storage hydropower remains slow having been stymied by a lack of policy and financial incentives for new developments.

About the forum

The International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower (IFPSH) is an unprecedented cross-sectoral initiative bringing together governments, developers, equipment manufacturers, research institutes, system operators, environmental NGOs, multilateral development banks and the finance community.

The forum is convened by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and chaired by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), with the governments of Austria, Brazil, Estonia, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Morocco, Norway and Switzerland participating. The forum is expected to report back over the next 12 months with a programme of initiatives and policy proposals.

Multilateral development banks such as the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), as well as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), are participating in the forum.

Leading private sector, research and financial organisations who have joined as founding partners include EDF, GE Renewable Energy, Voith, Hydro Tasmania, Mott MacDonald, Australian National University,  IHE Delft, the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy, the Energy and Resources Institute of India and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

Find the forum at: and on social media #pumpedstorageforum


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Resettlement in hydropower needs to be handled with care and commitment, respecting the dignity and human rights of those affected.

Good practice requires a participatory process based on fairness and equity, with the aim of achieving a sustainable improvement in the lives of resettlees.

A new how-to guide published by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) will now support project developers to identify, manage and avoid risks associated with delivering a resettlement programme.



The How-to Guide on Hydropower Resettlement will help companies design and implement resettlement schemes based on international good practice as defined in the Hydropower Sustainability Tools.

Mapping out key steps

The guide clearly maps out the key steps for resettlement at each stage of the project development cycle. It explores the main themes and concerns related to resettlement caused by hydropower development and provides insights for the parties responsible.

Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of IHA, commented: “Resettlement is one of the most contentious issues in all infrastructure developments, but there are solutions available that put resettlees at the heart of the process.

“This guide offers a clear and transparent approach to resettlement planning and implementation. By following the measures and strategies presented, hydropower developers can provide clean and reliable energy in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Helen Locher, an independent consultant and accredited assessor and the author of the guide, added: "Resettlement involves so much more than building replacement housing and moving people. This guide highlights the many dimensions and complexities involved, and should help inform decision-making, planning and management regarding resettlement in hydropower projects."

The success of any new hydropower project is inextricably linked with the success of any resettlement programme. By meeting good practice for resettlement, hydropower developers will be taking a significant step to ensure the sustainability of their project.

Download the How-to Guide on Hydropower Resettlement

Over 160 hydropower industry, civil society and policy representatives met to address the challenges and role for hydropower in the clean energy transition, at a HYDROPOWER EUROPE online event last week.

The #HPEOnlineWorkshop was part of the HYDROPOWER EUROPE consultation process on a Research and Innovation Agenda (RIA) and Strategic Industry Roadmap (SIR). Stakeholders were able to debate and share their views on policy and regulations, technical challenges, and environmental and social issues affecting the future of hydropower in Europe.

As a partner in the project, IHA participated alongside other leading international and European organisations. IHA Senior Analyst David Samuel commented; “the workshop was a chance to hear from a range of stakeholders and discuss the opportunities as well as challenges facing hydropower in Europe”.



At the beginning of day one, representatives from the European Commission’s Directorate-General Energy and Directorate-General Environment introduced policy and regulatory issues as the EU works towards decarbonisation. A key point raised was the need for integrated energy and environmental policies, to ensure supportive planning frameworks for hydropower development. Next, technical challenges and research and innovation (R&I) priorities were presented including innovative concepts and technologies to boost hydropower’s potential. Collaboration among hydropower stakeholders and the public will be increasingly important for the sector.

The introduction was followed by four separate parallel group discussions.  In the first group, experts shared their views on market structure and regulatory mechanisms to support hydro in Europe. The second focused on improving the European funding offer for hydropower R&I, and the third group explored the question of hydropower as a flexibility provider for the future European energy system. Attendees in the last group discussed the performance and resilience of existing infrastructure.

Day two kicked-off with civil society organisations such as WWF and the Global Water Programme (IUCN) addressing the impacts of hydropower on the environment. Best practices and solutions to make hydro more environmentally friendly were presented, with examples highlighting small-scale hydropower applications in the Netherlands, run-of-river projects using eco-friendly solutions, and effective system-scale planning for renewables development. Throughout the workshop, the importance of industry and civil society working together was emphasised as essential to ensuring public support.

Again, the second day ended with four parallel group discussions. Best practices and solutions to increase public acceptance of hydropower were discussed in the first group. The second addressed environmental solutions and benefits of hydropower projects. Finally the third and fourth groups focused on the environmental impacts on river flows and on biodiversity, respectively.

On behalf of HYDROPOWER EUROPE, IHA’s David Samuel moderated the group discussion on river flow impacts, for which technical support was provided by Egle Kareckaite of the European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE). IHA Senior Analyst Cristina Diez Santos gave an introductory presentation on river flow impacts, with conversions then centering on sediment management. Dams and hydropower structures can affect the natural flows of sediment along a river, and so managing the issue is critical both for river health and efficient hydro operations. The group discussed case studies in Poland, Switzerland, and Italy, and concluded that site owners and policy-makers need to be aware of the risks and understand the range of solutions available.The recordings and the presentations from the main sessions are accessible once registered for the wider stakeholder consultation at this link.

Online consultation open until 31 October

The HYDROPOWER EUROPE Forum has been working on a consultation process through regional and technical workshops as well as online consultations. Feedback from diverse groups of stakeholders including hydropower experts, industry, civil society, environmental organisations and other interested parties is being collected, to help shape R&I priorities for the sector.

The outcomes of the workshop will help finalise recommendations for the future direction and role of hydropower in Europe. There is still time to provide feedback by participating in the 2nd Stakeholder Online Consultation. The consultation process will close at the end of October 2020.

‘This demonstrates a strong commitment by the hydropower industry and environmental NGOs to work together’ – Eddie Rich

The International Hydropower Association welcomes a “landmark” collaboration agreement between environmental groups and the U.S. hydropower sector, which recognises the need to tackle climate change with renewable energy while also preserving healthy rivers.


The joint statement was issued on 13 October by twelve organisations including the US National Hydropower Association, the Hydropower Foundation, American Rivers and WWF, among other groups.

The agreement outlines how the benefits of hydropower, including its energy storage potential, should be harnessed while protecting the ecology and environment of American water systems. This will involve accelerating the development of hydropower technologies and the rehabilitation, retrofitting and removal of older dams, among other actions.

“The parties agree that maximising hydropower’s climate and other benefits, while also mitigating the environmental impact of dams and supporting environmental restoration, will be advanced through a collaborative effort,” the statement says.

The agreement was brokered following a two-and-a-half year dialogue co-convened by Stanford University and the Energy Futures Initiative. It recognises that, of the 90,000 dams that exist in the U.S. dams, less than 2,500 are fitted with hydropower.

In a blog on NHA’s website, NHA President and CEO Malcolm Woolf commented: “Our nation’s electricity grid already benefits from over 100 GW of flexible, carbon-free hydropower and pumped storage capacity and has the potential to add more without new impoundments. I believe there is common ground to be found that will allow us to bolster the health and vitality of our nation’s rivers while also maximising the nation’s hydropower resources to address climate change. And with this agreement in hand, we can start down that path together.”

Responding to the statement, IHA CEO Eddie Rich said: “We welcome this landmark agreement between the hydropower community and conservation groups in the USA. Decisions around all technologies have to balance a mixture of local, regional and global impacts. It is heartening to see a maturing debate on the trade-offs of hydropower development. This demonstrates a strong commitment by the hydropower industry and environmental NGOs to work together to promote renewable energy and address climate change while preserving the health of precious rivers.

“Renewable hydropower is going to be essential for the clean energy transition. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that it is developed sustainably including by fitting hydropower capacity on to existing dams, modernising others and removing those that serve no purpose. This statement is a call to action for the environmental and hydropower communities around the world to work together on the biggest challenge that faces the 21 century.”

Read the joint statement.