You are here

September 2020

30 September 2020

Hydropower is the third largest renewables employer, with almost two million people working in the industry, according to the latest jobs report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

A record 11.5 million people were employed by all renewable industries in 2019, of which 1.93 million people were directly employed in hydropower. China, Brazil, the United States and Canada were the top hydropower employers followed by Pakistan, Vietnam, Russia and Myanmar.



Despite its status as the world’s largest source of renewable energy and its “huge untapped potential”, IRENA says hydropower employment in 2019 was around six per cent lower than in 2018, as growth slowed and new projects were delayed in several countries.

As a consequence of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, IRENA projects the employment figure to fall further during 2020 given further delays in construction during national lockdowns.

In response, Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) said: “This report underlines hydropower’s global significance as a major renewable sector employer as well as the urgent need to invest in new and sustainable hydropower projects.”

“Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, IHA has highlighted the centrality of sustainable hydropower as part of the green recovery. 

“IRENA estimates an additional 850 GW of newly installed hydropower capacity is needed by 2050 to help achieve the carbon reduction commitments of the Paris Agreement. This could generate an additional 600,000 skilled jobs over the next decade.

"To achieve this will require concerted action including improved financial incentives and compensation for the flexibility and resilience services provided by hydropower. The green economic stimulus packages begin announced around the world give us the opportunity to make this goal a reality.”

The jobs report comes days after the second meeting of IRENA’s Collaborative Framework on Hydropower, a forum initiated by the Swiss government and supported by 49 countries on 24 September 2020.

At the meeting, Mr Francesco La Camera, IRENA Director-General, cited hydropower’s role as a source of power system resilience. “As an enabler for integrating higher shares of renewable energy into power systems, hydropower is set to play an important role in the energy transition and will be critical to the decarbonisation of economies.”

“Promoting the continued deployment of hydropower has been, and remains, an important part of IRENA’s work,” La Camera said.

According to IRENA, hydropower is the cheapest renewable on a Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) basis.

Learn more about hydropower and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.




Forty-nine countries are participating in a new initiative by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to promote coordinated action, cooperation and dialogue on hydropower’s role in the clean energy transition. 

More than 100 attendees from IRENA’s member countries, applicant countries and observer organisations took part in the second meeting of the Collaborative Framework on Hydropower, a forum initiated by the Swiss government, on 24 September 2020. 

IRENA, which considers hydropower essential to driving the clean energy transition, established the initiative in June in response to member country requests to expand its support to the deployment of hydropower technologies. 

Mr Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA cited hydropower’s role as a source of power system resilience and as a way to expand the adoption of variable renewables, in his remarks to the meeting. 



“As an enabler for integrating higher shares of renewable energy into power systems, hydropower is set to play an important role in the energy transition and will be critical to the decarbonisation of economies. Promoting the continued deployment of hydropower has been, and remains, an important part of IRENA’s work,” Mr La Camera said. 

The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Jean-Christophe Füeg, Head of International Energy Affairs of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. IHA and the World Bank were invited to share their views on the priorities for hydropower and how to bring public, private, intergovernmental and non-governmental actors together to exchange knowledge and identify opportunities and challenges for the sector. 

Addressing the meeting on behalf of IHA’s members, who at 450 GW represent almost a third of worldwide hydropower capacity, Chief Executive Eddie Rich said: “Energy transition targets require annual investments in sustainable hydropower to increase 150 per cent by 2030 - more even than wind and solar.” 

“Governments must redouble their efforts to implement sensible measures to help unlock billions of dollars of investment in sustainable hydropower development.” 

During its kick-off meeting in June, member countries agreed on the scope of the Collaborative Framework, including the need to ensure the continued and sustainable development of hydropower. The meeting recognised hydropower’s relevance as a provider of flexibility and an enabler for the integration of high shares of variable renewables 

In a statement on their website, IRENA noted the September virtual meeting witnessed a “high level of engagement” and that member countries have now agreed on future meetings, enabling the Collaborative Framework on hydropower to take further shape. 

Founded in 2009 as an intergovernmental organisation headquartered in Abu Dhabi, IRENA supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future. It encourages governments to adopt enabling policies for renewable energy investments, provides practical tools and policy advice to accelerate renewable energy deployment, and facilitates knowledge sharing and technology transfer to provide clean, sustainable energy for the world’s growing population. 

IHA continues to actively advocate for sustainable hydropower in IRENA as well as other international platforms and initiatives. 




New September 2021 date announced 

One year from now, in September 2021, we will bring together the world’s leading hydropower change-makers to decide priorities for the sector. 

The World Hydropower Congress is the leading international forum for innovators, experts and policy-makers to shape better energy strategies, influence smarter investment decisions and deliver international good practice.  

In 2021, the Congress will be a hybrid event hosted throughout the month, under the theme ‘Renewables working together’. 

For the first time in the event’s history, delegates from around the world will participate in online sessions across multiple timezones, culminating in an in-person summit in Costa Rica on 23-24 September. 

With a focus on green stimulus packages, the 2021 Congress presents an unprecedented opportunity to discuss how sustainable hydropower can contribute to building back better to deliver on energy, water and climate targets. 

The event will bring together senior representatives from governments, international organisations, financial institutions, research, non-governmental organisations and business to accelerate the pathway to a zero-carbon future. 

The 2021 World Hydropower Congress is organised by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and hosted by Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Costa Rica’s electricity services provider, and the Government of Costa Rica.  

Join us for high-level plenary sessions, focus sessions and workshops on: 

  • Advancing clean energy 
  • Tackling climate change  
  • Achieving sustainability 
  • Incentivising investments  
  • Integrating smarter tech 
  • Managing water 

Register your interest in attending or partnering