In response to the recently released No More New Hydropower in Europe: A Manifesto, a spokesperson with the International Hydropower Association issued the following response:
“Any infrastructure project, whatever its size or scale, should have a strategic fit and be developed and operated sustainably to avoid negative effects on biodiversity. Properly planned hydropower projects of all sizes can result in net-benefits to both energy and water systems, with manageable impacts on biodiversity and fish stocks and migration.
“Today, robust sustainability guidelines and tools, such as the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, help to ensure that modern hydropower projects can be developed in accordance with international good and best practice.
“Climate change is widely recognized as one of, if not the most, significant threat to biodiversity. Hydropower is by far the largest source of renewable electricity globally and will play a crucial role if we are to meet the Paris Agreement target of keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees C.
“An outright moratorium on hydropower in Europe would be inappropriate and stop many important projects going ahead, which are urgently required to ensure the success of the clean energy transition.
“Protecting rivers and biodiversity while tackling climate change through hydropower is not mutually exclusive. Earlier this month the IHA welcomed a landmark collaboration agreement between environmental groups and the U.S. hydropower sector. IHA looks forward to working with partners in Europe to achieve the same positive collaboration.”
Background from IHA
The power sector, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, must decarbonize to meet the challenge of climate change. Ambitious EU plans call for a 97% share of renewable electricity in the European power generation mix by 2050.
Hydropower is a clean energy source that about a third of renewable generation in Europe (nearly two-thirds globally). Variable renewables such as wind and solar are not dispatchable in the same way as more flexible power sources, such as hydropower or thermal power plants. Within this context, hydropower is crucial to achieving the EU’s renewables targets, as it is a low-carbon technology that helps to balance supply with demand.
A recent World Bank study found that 1 GW of hydropower can support up to 6 GW of variable renewables.
Hydropower also provides a vital means of managing water, providing safely managed water supply and irrigation for agriculture. The storage infrastructure provided by a hydropower reservoir helps to mitigate against the risks posed by climate change, including extreme weather events such as floods and drought.
The internationally recognized Hydropower Sustainability Tools provide guidance to industry on achieving good practice in hydropower development with regard to biodiversity conservation. By assessing themselves against the requirements of the Biodiversity and Invasive Species guidelines and assessment criteria, hydropower projects can demonstrate their commitment to biodiversity in line with international standards.
The tools’ performance criteria address ecosystem values, habitats and issues such as threatened species and fish passage in the catchment, reservoir and downstream areas, as well as potential impacts arising from pest and invasive species associated with the planned project. The intent is that there are healthy, functional and viable aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the project-affected area that are sustainable over the long term, and that biodiversity impacts arising from project activities are managed responsibly.
As an association committed to advancing sustainable hydropower, IHA and its members have an important role to play in increasing understanding and promoting the adoption of international good practices on biodiversity management. IHA will soon be publishing a how-to guide to assist practitioners and other stakeholders in identifying and managing biodiversity impacts.