Oh, hey there, hydro industry professional.
Do you have time for a few simple yes-or-no questions? You do? OK, great. Let’s get started then, shall we?
Question 1: Did you know that hydroelectricity is no longer an innovative technology that hasn’t seen a major technical breakthrough in several decades?
Question 2: Were you aware that new hydropower projects are no longer needed to balance intermittent sources of renewable energy?
Question 3: Did you know that the inclusion of large hydropower in climate initiatives falsely appears to obliterate the need for real climate solutions?
Question 4: Do the preceding questions sound like a bunch of garbage to you?
If you answered “no” to the first three and “yes” to the last, you might then be interested to know that Questions 1- are points taken directly from a recently released declaration co-signed by more than 320 watchdog organizations from over 50 countries.
The philosophies included in what is titled, “Ten Reasons Why Climate Initiatives Should Not Include Large Hydropower Projects” is nothing particularly groundbreaking for this sort of grievance — that is, it relies heavily on what I, as a mere observer, would largely consider to be pseudo-science and non-contextualized data to make bold proclamations about the supposed evils of, in this instance, large hydropower.
In addition to the points posited nearly verbatim in the form of questions above, the document’s core message is that “large hydropower projects are a false solution to climate change”, and that they “should be kept out from national and international climate initiatives.”
And though the manifesto does, with all honesty, make some very valid points — I can’t help but think the argument embodied by the document as a whole is essentially one akin to saying, “candy canes have the potential to cause cavities and thus Christmas should be prohibited.”
It is this generalized denunciation based on what are often broad, overly-simplified tenets (“rivers good, large hydropower bad”) that I personally find most tedious, and while it seems there is very often an adversarial relationship between the hydro industry and any number of environmental, social and cultural watchdog organizations, I’ve never understood why hydroelectric development has to be an either/or debate.
While I am very much aware that hydro projects — particularly large ones — undoubtedly impact all those who share what is, obviously, a fundamentally important resource, the refusal to cooperate in determining environmentally, culturally and politically appropriate compromises is often inexplicably frustrating to me as complete outsider, so I can only imagine what parties on both side of the fence must experience when they have more tangible stakes on the line.
It is perhaps a happy coincidence then that the aforementioned document, subtitled, “A Civil Society Manifesto for the Support of Real Climate Solutions”, should be released while I was editing a piece for an upcoming issue of HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide.
The essay, written by Dr. Jeff Opperman of The Nature Conservancy, could not possibly offer a more timely and appropriate contrast.
Without giving too much away, Opperman’s piece details The Nature Conservancy’s very proactive approach to cooperating with hydro project owners and developers to determine responsible solutions for managing shared resources.
It’s definitely a worthwhile read, and I think one that might change some opinions regarding parties with seemingly conflicting agendas can — and should — cooperate with each other.
The story will be published in the January 2016 edition of HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide, so be sure to look for it.