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Hydropower plays a vital role in reducing the world's dependence on fossil fuels. As a renewable energy, it is essential that hydropower is developed sustainably.

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) has played a leading role in the development of recognised sustainability guidelines and assessment tools.


The Hydropower Sustainability Tools were developed by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, a multi-stakeholder coalition of industry, government, financial institutions and social and environmental NGOs, and are published by IHA as the council’s management body.

The tools comprise the Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice as well as two assessment tools: the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, to measure performance above and below defined good practice, and the Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool, for checking for gaps against good practice and delivering a gap management plan.

IHA offers capacity-building, training and accreditation for independent assessors in the use of these tools:

Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines

The Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice define expected sustainability performance for the hydropower sector across a range of environmental, social, technical and governance topics.


The 26 guidelines present definitions of the processes and outcomes relating to good practice in the planning, operation and implementation of hydropower projects. As a compendium, the guidelines are a reference document for meeting the expectations of lenders, regulators, and consumers. Compliance with each guideline can be specified in commercial contracts between financiers and developers, and developers and contractors.

Find out more about the guidelines.


Assessment Protocol

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) offers a framework for assessing hydropower projects above and below good practice against a comprehensive range of social, environmental, technical and economic criteria.


The HSAP was developed between 2007 and 2010 following a review of the World Commission on Dams recommendations, the Equator Principles, the World Bank Safeguard Policies and IFC Performance Standards, and IHA’s previous sustainability tools.

Assessments are delivered by independent accredited assessors and can examine different stages of a project’s life-cycle. Objective evidence collected during an assessment is used to create a sustainability profile, which can be used to benchmark performance and drive further improvements. The assessment protocol was updated in 2018 with a new topic covering hydropower’s carbon footprint and resilience to climate change. 

Find out more about the HSAP.


Gap Analysis Tool

The Hydropower Sustainability Environmental, Social and Governance Gap Analysis Tool (HESG Tool) enables hydropower project proponents and investors to identify and address gaps against international good practice.


Launched in 2018, the gap analysis tool is based on the assessment framework of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. It assesses projects against the requirements of the HSAP's environmental, social and governance topics. It provides a gap management action plan to help a project team address any gaps and is divided into 12 sections which are compatible with IFC Environmental and Social Performance Standards, and the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework.


Find out more about the HESG Tool.




IHA's Better Hydro publication showcases proven good practice in sustainable hydropower.

IHA has developed a compendium of case studies demonstrating excellence in sustainable hydropower development, based on assessments carried out under the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. 

The case studies focus on specific aspects of development, such as indigenous people, cultural heritage, economic viability, and water quality (23 topics are covered in total). Read more.

Case study: Costa Rica

The Reventazón Hydroelectric Project in Costa Rica was assessed using the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol in 2017. Learn more.

Watch our short documentary:

Assessing hydropower projects against good practices in sustainability