Exploring the theme of ‘Water and Climate Change’, UN Water’s annual report on World Water Day on 22 March 2020 highlighted that hydropower forms an essential part of the solution to climate change.
“Hydropower will continue playing a role in climate change mitigation and adaptation of the energy sector,” the World Water Development Report stated, acknowledging the need for low-carbon renewable energy.
The paper recognised the flexibility offered by hydropower projects in power generation, allowing for better integration of variable electricity delivered by wind and solar power into the grid.
Moreover, multipurpose hydropower reservoirs “contribute to flow regulation, flood control and availability of water for irrigation,” the report said.
To maximise their role in mitigating climate change, hydropower projects need to be developed and operated sustainably, taking into biodiversity, river ecology and hydrology, sediment transport, and local livelihoods, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, the paper noted.
This is where the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools and associated IHA tools and guidelines have a role to play in strengthening hydropower’s economic, social and governance performance.
The Hydropower Sustainability Tools exist to ensure that hydropower projects can be built in accordance with good and best practice. These tools comprise Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice (HGIIP), an Assessment Protocol (HSAP) and ESG Gap Analysis Tool (HESG).
Welcoming the report, Eddie Rich, CEO of IHA said, “To address climate change, electricity needs to be significantly decarbonised. This has only been achieved where there has been a significant contribution from hydropower. As the World Water Development Report highlights, we don’t just need more hydropower development – it has to be environmentally and socially sustainable.”
UN Water also released a Climate Change and Water Policy Brief for World Water Day which recognised that IHA’s Hydropower Sector Climate Resilience Guide published in 2019, “offers a methodology for identifying, assessing and managing climate risks to enhance the resilience of hydropower projects."
The GHG Reservoir (G-res) Tool, launched by IHA in 2017, allows companies, investors and consultants to report on the carbon footprint of a reservoir. Using readily available input data, the tool provides a cost-effective way to more accurately assess net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Maria Ubierna, Research & Policy Focal Point at IHA said, "We will continue to provide the necessary tools to the renewable energy sector to become ready for the challenges that climate change poses. Hydropower projects of all types and sizes can deliver services and benefit society in a climate-resilient and low-carbon way."