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14 January 2020

Sarawak Energy has benefitted from a sustainability training programme which is helping the company achieve its vision to deliver reliable, renewable energy for the people of Sarawak, Malaysia.


 Pictured: IHA's Sustainability team with employees of Sarawak Energy

The state-owned energy development company and power utility is responsible for electricity generation, transmission and electricity generation, providing electricity to about three million Sarawakans in both urban and rural areas.

In the last ten years, Sarawak’s generation mix has reoriented towards renewable hydropower and away from thermal fossil fuels such as gas, coal and diesel. Its large hydropower plants include the 2,400 MW Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) and the 944 MW Murum HEP. Under development is the 1285 MW Baleh project as well as smaller hydropower projects such as the 10MW Kota 2 project.


Pictured: Mohammad Irwan Aman

“Hydropower generation has an important role that provides a foundation for Sarawak’s development by providing reliable, renewable and affordable energy, while meeting environmental and economic needs,” says Mohammad Irwan Aman, the company’s Senior Manager (Sustainability).

The company is committed to implementing and operating its hydropower projects in accordance with international good practice, he says, in order to “minimise any negative impacts and maximise positive impacts”.

To build understanding among its staff on how to incorporate sustainability principles into current and future project developments, Sarawak Energy recently enlisted IHA to provide advanced training on using the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools to assess the social, environmental, technical and governance performance of its portfolio of hydropower projects.

The series of training workshops held in Kuching, Sarawak, explored how the suite of tools – including the Hydropower Sustainable Assessment Protocol (HSAP), Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool (HESG) and Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice (HGIIP) - can be used to enhance company practices.

Irwan says the company engaged IHA because of its ability to deliver a tailored training package. This training was divided into two categories for certified users and official accredited assessors.

“The Certified User Training was attended by our new batch of internal assessors, along with other staff who are directly or indirectly involved in hydropower development and operation, to introduce them to sustainable hydropower,” he says.

‘Training was an eye opener’  


 Pictured: Iswandy Sureia 


One of the trainees was Iswandy Sureia, a senior civil engineer for the Kota 2 Mini Hydro Project, who participated in the three-day Certified User Training. Despite nearly a decade’s experience with hydropower projects, he says the training was of great benefit to him.

“My primary role is to coordinate and control all phases of project execution and administration, cost, schedule and qualities of deliveries and changes of scope,” he says. “Based on my past experience, huge challenges and hurdles have been encountered from local stakeholders as there were no proper tools or guidelines to refer to. I believe with the tools in place in the business system and processes, all the problems can be minimised or eliminated.”

Iswandy adds the training was an “eye opener” for those directly involved in hydropower development as the Hydropower Sustainability Tools cover all aspects of a project’s life cycle.

“The tools can guide the team and the business entity in developing the hydropower project in a sustainable manner,” he says. “The team can also assess their performance against international good practice, areas for improvement and subsequently the recommended action to be taken.”

The course included 20 participants and eight observers from Sarawak Energy’s senior management.

‘Engaging and easy to understand’ 


Pictured: Dayang Zanariah 

Dayang Zanariah, a civil engineer, was one of 11 participants on the Official Accredited Assessor Training, a more comprehensive course. She learned about the various ways in which the Hydropower Sustainability Tools can be applied, ranging from decision-making to capacity building.

“The training was really engaging and further reinforced my understanding, especially in the interpretation of the statements for each of the [sustainability] topics,” she says. “The training structure was developed in a way that was easy to understand.”

Since the training course was completed in July 2019, Irwan says his team has been able to identify new ways to improve and incorporate the recently gained knowledge and lessons learned into their day-to-day responsibilities.

“In-depth understanding on sustainable hydropower and its application enables Sarawak Energy to strengthen its efforts in embedding sustainable practice into the business system by introducing and implementing new processes,” he says.

Learn more about IHA’s Sustainability training programmes here.

Read a blog by Mohamad Irwan Aman and Darylynn Chung from Sarawak Energy

30 December 2019

Hydropower operators and developers can use the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools to identify and manage project risks and improve communications with stakeholders, says Elisa Xiao, a member of the Hydropower Sustainability Governance Committee.


Elisa is a Senior Environmental and Social Professional with the New Development Bank (NDB) with over 20 years of environmental and social consulting experience for both the public and private sectors in over 30 countries.

In 2014, Elisa became an Accredited Assessor for the Hydropower Sustainability Tools – comprising the Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice (HGIIP), an Assessment Protocol (HSAP) and an ESG Gap Analysis Tool (HESG). 

These tools are used to guide and assess hydropower project performance, examining a range of issues from communications and consultation and resettlement, to impacts on water quality and biodiversity.


A toolkit for companies

“The Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines provide a toolkit for companies to plan, prepare, implement and operate hydropower projects in a sustainable manner, taking into account technical, social, environmental, financial and economic considerations,” Elisa says.

Companies can use the guidelines at any stage of project development, benchmarking their current practices against international definitions of good practice, and taking remedial actions as necessary. “More importantly, the guidelines can help companies to prioritise their efforts towards the most significant risks, which in turn will assist in managing overall project risks,” she says.

Whereas the HGIIP define good practice, the HSAP and the HESG are used when a project proponent needs an objective assessment of its performance delivered by an independent accreditor assessor.

Building a sustainability profile

The HSAP is used to build a detailed sustainability profile for a project, which is used to benchmark its performance against definitions of both good and best practice. “By commissioning a project assessment using the HSAP, companies will establish a good understanding of their sustainability objectives, maintain effective communication with key stakeholders, identify major project sustainability risks that may hinder the project implementation, and develop practical measures to manage project sustainability risks,” she says.

In addition, companies can use the HSAP to build their own internal capacity through the assessment process. “What makes the HSAP unique is that it is the only such protocol that is specifically developed for the hydropower industry covering all sustainability issues. It can be seen as an encyclopedia for hydropower sustainability. Users can find answers for all their sustainability questions using it,” she adds.

A common language

The Hydropower Sustainability Tools, whether used individually or as a set, provide a common language for improving understanding about all kinds of issues in sustainability relevant to hydropower development.

“A fuller understanding of good and best practices in the industry can help developers, operators and stakeholders to establish practical risk management mechanisms for hydropower development projects. This will help them to obtain a ‘social licence’ to operate, facilitate project implementation and avoid potential project delays,” says Elisa.

Beyond the project team, the Hydropower Sustainability Tools can also be used and understood by wider stakeholders including national authorities, financiers and local communities, helping these groups to appreciate the performance standards to expect from a hydropower project.

“Governments, investors, or communities can now understand what is possible if good or best practice is pursued,” Elisa says. “By knowing the tools, these groups can build their own capacity, support the project to develop sustainability goals and measures, and participate in decision-making effectively.”

Find out more about the Hydropower Sustainability Tools. 

Contact an Accredited Assessor.



20 December 2019

Hydropower’s role in delivering affordable and sustainable energy, industrial growth and job creation came under focus at the recent Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum (SAREF 2019) in Sarawak, Malaysia.


The inaugural forum organised by Sarawak Energy in Kuching spotlighted how hydropower is a solution to meet growing demands for renewable energy while also reducing carbon emissions in one of the world’s fastest growing and fastest developing regions.

Eddie Rich, CEO of IHA, was among the international line-up of speakers. He said that hydropower is the major renewable energy source in Asia as well as driving more use of other renewable sources such as solar and wind. “Hydropower will play a major role in the transition to renewable energy, as no country has successfully transitioned to renewable energy without a significant hydropower component,” he said.

Sharbini Suhaili, Chief Executive of Sarawak Energy and IHA Board member, said the forum aimed to encourage greater policy support for decarbonisation initiatives while recognising renewable hydropower’s contribution to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“SAREF 2019 has shown that there is no one path to a sustainable energy future and a confluence of objectives through partnerships with diverse stakeholders is required,” Mr Suhaili said.

The two-day forum brought more than 1,000 delegates from international organisations, experts from the energy sector, representatives from government, research communities, private sector and policy and decision makers together.

Prominent speakers included Abang Abdul Rahman Johari Abang Openg, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, who opened the event, followed by UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh, who gave a special address.  Tammy Chu, IHA Vice President and Managing Director at Entura, also spoke at the event.

19 December 2019

Five global energy associations jointly urged governments to increase the take-up of renewable technologies at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain last week.


The representatives made the call at an official side-event held by the REN Alliance, a partnership of the International Hydropower Association, International Solar Energy Society, International Geothermal Association, World Bioenergy Association and World Wind Energy Association.

Mathis Rogner, Senior Analyst at the International Hydropower Association (IHA), represented the hydropower sector and was joined by José González, Senior Researcher at the International Solar Energy Society, Marit Brommer, Executive Director at International Geothermal Association and Remigijus Lapinskas, President of the World Bioenergy Association.

The panelists urged policy-makers to:

  • increase renewable energy penetration in the electricity grid
  • develop markets that reward power system flexibility
  • stop financing and subsidising fossil fuels
  • increase investments in renewable energy technologies.

Mr Rogner said that renewable technologies were prepared to meet global energy demand and decarbonisation goals, but the policy and regulatory frameworks need to catch up. “I would like to call on governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organisations and companies to come together and work upon this aspect, so renewable energy can play a greater part,” he said. It is clear that our power systems need a mix of services to ensure resilient systems, he added.

He said the hydropower sector was going to continue to grow, but its role is evolving to offering further and additional grid flexibility services to support and enable the greater integration of variable renewables, while also offering freshwater management services.

Dr Brommer agreed collaboration is key to ensure the necessary deployment of renewable energy technologies on the ground. “The geothermal sector is keen to continue to push the need for energy system transformation and is grateful for the outreach opportunities through strong and strategic partnerships provided by the REN Alliance at high-level events such as the COPs where our joint messages are amplified,” she said.

David Renne, President of the International Solar Energy Society, said that while it is unfortunate that more was not accomplished at the national and global level at COP25, the REN Alliance side-event confirms that much positive action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is taking place at local and regional levels.

“There is no question that the need for climate change mitigation is becoming more and more urgent, and that a major solution to this urgency is to increase the rate of deployment of clean renewable energy technologies that can meet all of our end use energy needs, including power, heat, and transport,” he said.

Laura Williamson, Outreach & Communications Manager at REN21, a think-tank focused on renewable energy policy, moderated the discussion.

Find out more about IHA’s work on clean energy systems.

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.



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).