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May 2013

Over 500 participants from 60 countries convened this week in Malaysia at the IHA 2013 World Congress on advancing sustainable hydropower. Stakeholders from industry, civil society, non-government organisations, academia, finance, and others joined together to address opportunities and challenges for hydropower development around the world. 

The participants concluded today on the priorities for furthering the sustainability of the hydropower sector.

Delegates discussed key questions relating to the future of hydropower during the three days of the congress, such as:

  • Who are the investors and where are the markets?
  • How to work with project-affected communities?
  • How does hydropower integrate with other renewables?
  • What are the expectations from modern energy systems?
  • Are water and energy policies well-coordinated?
  • How do we incorporate sustainability into business practice?
  • What are the relationships between hydropower and climate change?
  • Have social aspects become the most important challenge to sector?

Some of the key outcomes of the congress are as follows.

Hydropower and regional development

We hosted a workshop in co-operation with the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank to share experience on common themes of regional hydropower development – regional interconnections, river basin perspectives, and bringing markets to the resource.

Participants agreed that hydropower can be an important driver for economic development, and noted that political will is a key component of success, while expressing the need for more awareness and learning on the key challenges and solutions for regional hydropower development.

We will continue to work with our partners to explore these themes in regions around the world through a series of regional development workshops and related programme work.

Climate change

Participants in an expert working group on GHG emissions associated with freshwater reservoirs agreed: “UNESCO/IHA and IEA hydro agree to cooperate with the objective to establish a common definition of the net change in the GHG profile of a freshwater system resulting from the introduction of man-made water storage.

"We believe that this definition is required to allocate GHG impact to the multiple uses of water storage over its life cycle”


Wide-ranging debate around sustainability in the hydropower sector included the challenges of achieving sustainable development in a rapidly-changing world and the complexities of working with project affected communities, with contributions from local communities putting a human face to the high-level debate.

Participants explored avenues to incorporate sustainability into business systems, including the multiple roles for the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. Practical sessions introduced the protocol to those with no prior knowledge of the tool.

The session was amply attended by over 60 interested delegates, indicating the large level of interest in this rapidly growing assessment methodology.

The topics included above are important components of our work programme and will be further explored through our on-going work.

Download the full press release

More information about the IHA 2013 World Congress

The first official assessments using the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol were today published on

The assessments, carried out over the last year, were undertaken on hydropower projects in Brazil (ESBR), Norway (Statkraft), Iceland (Landsvirkjun), and Germany (E.ON). The assessments were made by independent teams of experts, coordinated by IHA, and highlight areas in which the hydropower developers are performing well and where there is room for improvement. The publication of the reports now opens a period of 60 days of public comment, via the same website. 

The protocol, a comprehensive tool to assess the sustainability of hydropower projects globally, provides a rigorous, evidence-based assessment of between 19-23 relevant sustainability topics, depending on the development stage of the project. These topics include issues such as downstream flow regimes, indigenous peoples, biodiversity, infrastructure safety, resettlement, water quality, and erosion and sedimentation. 

Joerg Hartmann, Chair of the Protocol Governance Council said: ‘The release of these results shows the detailed and expert nature of Protocol assessments, we hope that having reports available publicly will encourage other stakeholders in the sector to explore how assessments can be of use to them.’

Publication has been timed to coincide with the IHA World Congress taking place this week in Sarawak, Malaysia, with the goal of advancing sustainable hydropower. It is anticipated that a further five assessments will be published in the coming year.

Download the full press release.