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IHA launches $1 million assessment fund for sustainable hydropower projects

A new sustainability fund will aid hydropower project developers and operators in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas to benchmark and raise their social and environmental performance. The Hydropower Sustainability ESG Assessment Fund will award CHF1 million (US$1.02 million) to 40 or more hydropower projects between 2020 and 2024.

Recipients will receive a grant to part-finance the cost of commissioning an independent project assessment using the Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool (HESG), a tool based on the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol and governed by a multi-stakeholder coalition of non-governmental organizations, governments, banks and multilateral institutions.

The initiative is managed by the International Hydropower Association’s sustainability division and funded by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

The tool enables project proponents and operators to demonstrate they are meeting international good practice standards across 12 assessment areas, including biodiversity, water quality, climate mitigation and resilience, infrastructure safety, labor conditions, indigenous peoples, resettlement, communications and consultation.

The grant will co-finance independent assessors, who are accredited by IHA and a governance council, to carry out an assessment using the HESG gap analysis tool. This involves a site visit and interviews with stakeholders and produces a concluding report and gap management plan.

Projects under preparation and development, as well as those already in operation, are eligible for the grant. Applicants will need to demonstrate a strong track record or commitment to sustainability and show that their project aligns with national or regional development policies.

“This initiative will encourage renewable energy proponents to draw upon international good practice when planning and implementing hydropower projects,” said Joao Costa, senior sustainability specialist at IHA. “Commissioning a HESG assessment helps to guide developers and operators to address any gaps in environmental and social performance. Going through this process will ultimately demonstrate a project’s sustainability and help unlock green finance.”

Daniel Menebhi, SECO program manager, said: “Recognizing the important role sustainable hydropower has to play in addressing climate change and enabling economic development, Switzerland supports the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol and its derivatives, including the HESG gap analysis tool which is the subject of this call. We are pleased to co-finance HESG assessments for at least 40 promising hydropower projects over the next four years.”

The first tranche of funding of CHF250,000 in 2020 will be made available for projects in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, North Macedonia, Peru, Serbia, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Project proposals will be accepted until April 20, 2020.