New initiative to support sustainable hydropower in the Western Balkans

Hydropower

A new initiative has been launched in the Western Balkans to support authorities, investors and developers to implement international good practices in hydropower development, according to the International Hydropower Association (IHA).

Across Europe’s Western Balkans region, demand is growing for the reliable, pollution-free renewable energy that hydropower can provide. Yet local communities can be divided over its merits, with some campaigners seeking to bring a halt to new projects. For national licensing authorities, the challenge is to assess whether proposed hydropower schemes are sustainable for local communities and the environment.

To address such concerns, IHA, the Albanian Power Corporation (KESH) and the Swiss government’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) have launched this new three-year initiative beginning in early 2021.

The initiative will see IHA Sustainability, the organization’s non-profit subdivision, work with project developers, alongside regulators, investors and civil society organizations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

“One of the main outcomes of this program of support will be to ensure local stakeholders from the Western Balkans are better equipped with the necessary tools to understand and assess the sustainability performance of hydropower projects in line with internationally recognized guidelines,” said Alain Kilajian, senior sustainability specialist at IHA. “Reaching key decision-makers as well as non-governmental organizations, the training program will strengthen institutional capacity and widen awareness about the good practice requirements expected of all hydropower projects and provide a common language to discuss important sustainability concerns in the region.

“The aim is to ensure hydropower projects comply with the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, a set of guidelines and assessment tools developed by governments, industry and social and environmental NGOs. These tools are aligned with lending criteria used by international institutions such as the World Bank and International Finance Corporation.”

The training program will examine all aspects of project development, including siting and design, community consultation, biodiversity and environmental risk management. With a combination of face-to-face workshops, e-learning and webinars, and in-country and remote support, participants will become proficient in using the Hydropower Sustainability Tools and will participate in an assessment of a hydropower project in Albania. 

“On behalf of the Albanian Power Corporation, I feel honored for being part of this program, as the largest electricity producer in the country and in the region,” said Benet Beci, executive director of KESH. “Our future challenges concern increasing the energy production and ensuring electricity independence, while at the same time, ensuring a positive environmental and social presence in the communities living close to hydropower plants, as well as promoting sustainable social, economic and environmental development. Therefore, we are committed to adopt the best practices and standards of sustainable hydropower.”

IHA Sustainability has delivered capacity building programs across the world, including with the World Bank in the Zambezi River Basin, with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation in Nepal and Myanmar, and with SECO in Ghana and Indonesia.

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