An on-line resource covering everything you need to know about small hydro is now available and seeking your input. Gemma Newman reports

The focus of the international-energy-agency (IEA) has changed dramatically over the years. Established in 1974 within the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), IEA concentrated on oil issues. But in recent years it has broadened its work to cover virtually all areas of the energy industry. Today, one of its most important objectives is to encourage the use and development of renewable sources of energy.

As part of its work, an Implementing Agreement for Hydropower Technologies and Programmes was set up by ten

IEA member countries: Canada, China, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US in 1995. Each country has nominated an organisation to represent them, and they are working to complete a number of topics within the overall subject of the agreement.

The agreement focuses on the improve- ment of technical and institutional aspects of the existing hydro power industry and to increase the future use of hydro in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. To co-ordinate this work a number of task forces were created called ‘annexes’. During its first phase (1995-2000), the hydro power agreement worked on the following subjects:

•Upgrading hydro power installations (annex 1).

•Small scale hydro power (annex 2).

•Environmental and social impacts of hydro power (annex 3).

•Education and training (annex 4).

As a result of the work by the small scale hydro power task force, an international small hydro atlas was developed. The atlas is an on-line resource of the task force’s work and is available at

‘The main aims of the atlas are to enhance communication and promote development in the industry,’ said Tony Tung, the operating agent of the IEA small scale hydro power task force. ‘We are not looking for a breakthrough technology, we just want to pass on information and the website is the best way to do it.’

The atlas has a number of features which are designed to provide the small hydro developer with as much information as possible about potential and operational sites worldwide. The emphasis of the programme is on projects more than 50kW and less than 10MW of installed capacity.

A global database of sites is available in the atlas to help developers view and locate plants using a geographical information system. ‘The atlas allows information to be linked to a physical location,’ said Tung. In phase one, the emphasis on the database was designing a common information format and simple application to add new sites and country databases. In phase two, the agreement wants to identify other data sources and existing databases.

The atlas also contains a database of organisations and contacts, as well as literature related to the small hydro industry. The task force believes that it is particularly important to develop effective networking, especially in the small hydro industry and as a result it is producing a database which lists the names of people and companies active in small hydro, as well as a list of conferences and meetings, papers and related internet links.

The task force also considered the economic viability of small hydro sites and total project costs. It reviewed resource methodologies and software programmes which have been explored to reduce small hydro development costs. A technical report from this review is available in the atlas as well as a list of the methodologies that were examined.

The small hydro developer is always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of their plants.

The task force, recognising the need for further research in this area, carried out a survey and review of current research and development activities and recommended priority areas of interest. A summary of the findings are available in the atlas, as well as the papers which were collected during the review.

Finally, the task force decided it would develop guidelines for financing small hydro projects. The guidelines are aimed at both developers and financiers, and summarise the available experience and risks associated with small hydro projects.

Second phase

In May 2000, the small scale hydro power task force agreed to continue its work in a second phase (2000-2005), and will focus on the following objectives:

•Expansion of the global maps on the internet showing small hydro sites in more countries.

•Analyse and report on improved methods to reduce ecological impacts of small hydro projects.

•Document the lessons learned from small hydro experiences and the appli-cation of successful low cost technologies.

•Document innovative technologies that have recently been developed for small hydro.

•Analyse and report on combining small hydro with other forms of renewable energy.

The task force is also considering a number of other activities which include the following:

•Establishing a procedure for consultation/ advice support for the initiation of small hydro projects through the small hydro atlas website.

•Developing the atlas website to include a forum for discussion, a newsletter and information on education and training.

•Using the website to broadcast regional workshops and other task force meetings in real time and provide proceedings.

•Creating an international small hydro marketing campaign.

Become a member

The small scale hydro task force is encouraging other countries and organisations to join them in their work and contribute to the small hydro atlas. Regional workshops are proposed which will cover the key topics of the work tasks of phase two. The workshops may be held in non IEA member countries to encourage maximum participation by reducing the cost of attending the workshops. This will also help private sectors of participating IEA member and non member countries to liaise and allow data to be gathered more easily from non member countries. ‘It is very hard to get information. We hope that through the website and workshops we will get more feedback,’ said Tung.

Holding workshops in non IEA member countries will also allow small hydro training sessions to be incorporated. ‘We would like to develop the Atlas to allow people to learn on-line and provide up-to-date information. One of the main aims of the Atlas is to push hydro development in developing countries and facilitate the exchange of technical information,’ Tung added.