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In this first article in a new interview series profiling Fellows of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), we meet Óli Grétar Blöndal Sveinsson from Landsvirkjun, the national power company of Iceland.

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Óli Grétar Blöndal Sveinsson is an Executive Vice President at Landsvirkjun, whose role is to manage the preparation of new projects and conduct research on existing power systems.

Óli has a degree in physics from the University of Iceland, followed by a master’s and doctorate in civil engineering specialising in hydrological processes from Colorado State University. He has also completed postgraduate work at the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, Columbia University, and been a college and university lecturer.

Óli’s passion for hydropower and renewable energy reflects in the enthusiasm he displays while talking to IHA about the industry.

“Most of my life has been around hydrology and hydropower,” he says. “I started out as a hydrologic surveyor during summer vacations while studying for a degree in physics and later civil engineering with a focus on hydrology and hydropower.”

Iceland’s power generation is 100 per cent renewable from hydropower, geothermal and wind sources, a fact which clearly makes Óli very proud.

During his career, he has been involved in constructing multiple renewable hydroelectric, geothermal and wind projects, with the largest project being the 700 MW Karahnjukar HEP commissioned in 2007.

However, Óli counts Landsvirkjun receiving the IHA Blue Planet Prize for excellence in hydropower sustainability - for the operation of the Blanda hydropower station in 2017 - as one of his proudest moments.

Achieving sustainability in hydropower is not easy, he admits. “Hydropower harnesses the power of flowing rivers and hydropower projects can have negative impacts on aquatic life, environment, land use and other competing water usage,” Oli explains.

“As such, the number of stakeholders can be high, making it a lengthy process to prepare and launch a successful project that is deemed acceptable in terms of overall positive and negative impacts. There is always a debate on who is benefitting.”

Nonetheless, Óli remains optimistic about the future of the hydropower sector, which he believes should play a key role in the management of water use and adaptation to climate change by mitigating the effects of severe droughts and floods.

“Hydropower is the most flexible and efficient renewable energy sources available,” he says. “It can play a key role in the creation of 100 per cent renewable power systems.”

Through the years, Óli, who was elected Vice President of IHA in September 2019, has acquired deep expertise in the hydropower sector. “I think it is important to work together and share experience and knowledge,” he says.

“By becoming an IHA Fellow, I have joined a club of experts that know everything there is to know about hydropower.” 

Find out how to become a Fellow of the International Hydropower Association (IHA).

13 December 2019

A new IHA guide will help hydropower developers and operators manage potential impacts arising from erosion and sedimentation in a river basin, allowing decision-makers to avoid business risks and act responsibly towards the environment and local communities.

The Hydropower Erosion and Sedimentation How-to Guide provides an overview of current knowledge and effective practices from across the sector in managing risks associated with erosion and sedimentation.

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It covers potential impacts upstream and downstream of a hydropower project, sediment transport in rivers, erosion from the project site, civil and electromechanical structures, and climate change.

The guide presents methodologies and technologies related to scoping and siting, design and mitigation, and assessment and monitoring.  The guide in addition highlights how such measures can increase a project’s resilience to hydrological variability and support climate change adaptation.

IHA Sustainability Specialist, Alain Kilajian, said: “Effective erosion and sediment management is essential to sustainably develop and operate a hydropower project. This guide looks at good practices in the field and provides hydropower professionals with practical approaches to managing even the most challenging issues.”

Lead author and independent environmental and social consultant, Doug Smith, said: “Effective management of erosion and sedimentation is fundamental to hydropower’s role in a low carbon future. With its catalogue of methodologies and technologies, I hope the guide provides clarity on how to do this, where to begin, and where to find further advice and expertise.”

Download the Hydropower Erosion and Sedimentation How-to Guide

About IHA

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a non-profit membership organisation committed to sustainable hydropower. Our mission is to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. We achieve this through sector monitoring, advancing strategies that strengthen performance, and building an open, innovative and trusted platform for knowledge.

Read about the Hydropower Sustainability Tools and Good Practice on Erosion and Sedimentation.

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As renewables take up a larger share of the electricity mix, demand for the flexibility services offered by hydropower is expected to grow, said IHA President Roger Gill at the 18th edition of the World Wind Energy Conference WWEC 2019. 

Hydropower, including pumped hydropower storage to a greater extent, provides essential grid services and will make significant contributions to future clean energy systems as the ‘world’s water battery’, Mr Gill told the conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last week. The event, held between 25 to 27 November, brought together more than 300 people from over 20 countries.

Presenting on the topic of ‘renewables working together’, the newly elected IHA President said the world’s renewable energy associations, including solar, geothermal and bioenergy, should continue to promote discussion on how renewables can best support the energy transition and achievement of sustainable development goals. 

The portfolios of hydropower facilities in many power systems of the world are already capable of providing services that support the increasing contribution of wind and solar. “Hydro equipment is able to operate flexibly to accommodate the variability of wind and solar in the short and medium term and existing large storage reservoirs can contribute to provide energy supply security over longer time scales,” Mr Gill said.

Mr Gill cited the example of Brazil, where hydropower is a key part of the energy mix. The country has the second largest fleet of hydropower facilities in the world. Its portfolio of hydropower provides vital energy supply and, as wind and solar power are added, can deliver power system services to stabilise the grid. 

“With the modernisation of Brazilian hydro plants already underway, the facilities should be upgraded to even more efficiently meet Brazil’s future energy and power system service needs,” Mr Gill said.

Under the theme of ‘Large-scale integration of wind power generation’, WWEC 2019 highlighted how wind power generation can be integrated with other renewable sources to reach 100 per cent renewable energy supply and how integration is important as end-use sectors switch from fossil fuels to electricity, such as with electric vehicles. 

The conference programme included presentations in the areas of wind, solar and other renewable energy, energy storage technologies, energy in transport, power generation by communities and emerging renewable markets.

Visit www.world-wind.events for more information.

 

 

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A three-day Certified User Training on the Hydropower Sustainability Tools was held for the Inter-American Development Bank and IDB Invest in Washington D.C. in October by trainers from the International Hydropower Association.

Participants gained knowledge of good international industry practice in hydropower preparation, implementation and operation and how the tools can support clients involved in hydropower development across Latin America.

“Overall it was an excellent and pragmatic course,” said Roberto Aiello, Principal Energy Regional Specialist at IDB. “I liked the design, structure, topics, pace and content - it works very well for people like us at multilateral development banks, who have busy schedules.”

“A deeper knowledge on sustainability tools for hydropower is essential for our work in the region, as hydropower is still the largest electricity source in Latin America,” added Arturo Alarcón, senior energy specialist at IDB. “Currently we are supporting several rehabilitation and modernisation projects, and applying sustainability principles in infrastructure development, operation and maintenance is critical to guarantee the best use of our resources.”

IHA’s approach to training is centred around hands-on training and the sharing of technical know-how. IDB and IDB Invest staff reviewed and analysed case studies from previous assessments and engaged in interactive activities designed to build their confidence around the assessment process and solidify their knowledge of sustainability measurement.

Learn about training opportunities

 

28 October 2019

A new IHA how-to guide for hydropower developers and operators aims to increase understanding of benefit sharing in project development and operation.

The How-to Guide on Hydropower Benefit Sharing will help decision-makers identify and deliver socio-economic benefits to communities, while assisting companies to avoid business risks and improve project viability.

João Costa, Senior Sustainability Specialist at IHA, said: “Hydropower projects are developed to provide electricity and other essential services such as water supply or flood control. But they do more than that.  Sustainable projects can provide important benefits for nearby communities, including economic infrastructure, electricity subsidies and local employment.

“This how-to guide will help industry professionals understand benefit sharing in hydropower and gain insights into the strategies and approaches towards achieving good international industry practice."

The publication provides an overview of current knowledge on benefit sharing across the hydropower sector, looking at beneficiaries and types of benefits, including those related to project siting and design, monetary and non-monetary, regulatory and voluntary, benefits, as well as governance and monitoring methodologies.

The guide aims to support developers and operators in meeting good practice, as defined by the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools. It outlines a range of strategies to share benefits related to financial mechanisms, capacity-building, training and employment, procurement, social services, economic infrastructure, electrification and subsidies, and reservoir use.

Writing in the guide, lead author Joerg Hartmann concludes by recommending a partnership approach to benefit sharing. “Communities need to be empowered to take responsibility for their own development,” he said.

“A partnership approach depends on communities being treated as equals and with respect by projects and by government, and is a precondition for good community relations.”

Download the Hydropower Benefit Sharing How-to Guide for free from our IHA publications library: www.hydropower.org/publications

About IHA

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a non-profit membership organisation committed to sustainable hydropower. Our mission is to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. We achieve this through sector monitoring, advancing strategies that strengthen performance, and building an open, innovative and trusted platform for knowledge.

Read about the Hydropower Sustainability Tools and Project Benefits.

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