As the new CEO of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), Eddie Rich is tasked with advancing the interests of sustainable hydropower around the world, ensuring the merits of its energy generation credentials are heard loud and clear.

The former Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) deputy head took over from the IHA’s only other chief executive Richard Taylor in September 2019, and will now oversee the London-based organisation’s more than 100-strong corporate membership.

He spoke to International Water Power & Dam Construction magazine about how he is settling into the role and what he hopes for the association in the future.


New International Hydropower Association CEO Eddie Rich

How do you feel being appointed the new CEO of the International Hydropower Association?

Honoured, excited and challenged. September 2019 saw millions on the street protesting for action on climate change, the UN held a Summit for Climate Action and The Economist magazine issued a special edition on climate.

It is obvious that there is need for a bigger and better contribution to green energy from hydropower. IHA is the key organisation to make sure that the industry is well informed about good practices, has the capacity to implement them, and that the world benefits from the best use of this precious technology.

IHA’s work on building and sharing high-quality and evidence-based knowledge – not just on climate and the environment – is critically important. Much has been done, but there is much to do and I look forward to taking this forward with an excellent team.


What do you hope to achieve during your time in this role?

The world is facing a water and energy crisis. Almost one billion people do not have access to electricity, while two billion are without safely-managed water services. Urgent action is required to deliver clean energy to limit the effects of climate change, and meet people’s basic needs for clean water and affordable energy.

IHA’s role is to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. I therefore hope to:

  • Advance policies and strategies that strengthen the sector’s performance
  • Reset the public perception of hydropower towards it being absolutely central to the climate, energy, water and governance challenges of the 21st century
  • Build a vibrant, inclusive and proactive hydropower community
  • Create an open, innovative and trusted platform for knowledge
  • Deliver value to IHA members throughout the world


What skills and expertise do you bring to the role?

I have worked on the role of corporates in international development for more than 20 years. I was the deputy head of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) since the international secretariat was established in 2007, including a period as its executive director.

During that time, together with the EITI’s former executive director Jonas Moberg, we developed an approach to multi-stakeholder governance that challenges conventional developmental wisdom. It is summarised in our book, Beyond Governments: Making Collective Governance Work.

I hope to bring that experience, practice and knowledge to hydropower to help build support for sustainable hydropower practice and improved public perception. Prior to that I worked in Angola and Kenya on a range of development projects.


What attracted you to work in the hydropower industry?

The governance, environmental and perception issues around hydropower are similar to those that attracted me to the extractives industries except, of course, they are much cleaner and greener.

Hydropower accounts for nearly two-thirds of renewable electricity generation globally.  Yet solar and wind get much more attention internationally. Hydropower is not in competition with these other energy sources – with the demand for energy set to double by 2060, the world needs a lot more of all renewables.

Hydropower, in particular, is complementary with the others through its unique ability to balance variable renewable sources and provide grid stability. But we need to reset and lift the image of hydropower. When people think of hydropower, their first mental image should be more about fish, trees, irrigation, flood control, tourism, and clean, safe water.

Our image needs to be more green and blue.


What do you think are the challenges ahead for both the IHA and the global hydropower industry?

Too many think hydropower is big, bad and ugly. Yes, there are bad projects. Our job is to raise the bar for the whole sector. And not just on environment, but also on public health, economic growth, labour conditions, and so on.

IHA has the tools and guidance to assess the level of sustainability of the design, implementation and operation of hydropower projects.  These have been developed by governments, companies and civil society in a multi-stakeholder group. They are key flagship products based on hard-nosed research and evidence.

International Hydropower Association, Board, CEO
The new board of the International Hydropower Association, including President Roger Gill (Credit: IHA)

It is not just an industry viewpoint – these tools are established by a multi-stakeholder council of NGOs, international finance institutions, governments and companies.  These tools need to be more broadly used. To do this, we need to do three things:

  • Hardwire them into the requirements for international finance and into national legislation and regulation, so only sustainable projects can be developed.
  • Promote the tools with our huge network of companies and governments.
  • Better recognise and reward projects that demonstrate good and best practice in hydropower development and operation, to encourage peer competition and positive reinforcement.

What do you hope to build on from Richard Taylor’s time at the helm?

I am just the second CEO in IHA’s 24-year history. Richard Taylor has advanced sustainable hydropower so far with unparalleled passion, knowledge and skill and often against immense odds and resistance. What he has achieved at IHA is nothing short of extraordinary and his name deserves to be written large in the history of hydropower.

I am delighted and honoured that Richard is staying on as my adviser to ensure a strong and smooth transition. I am learning so much from him.


Any other comments?

IHA is trusted as the go-to source for hydropower data and research on topics such as digitalisation, climate change, green finance, biodiversity, sediment management, regional interconnections, world heritage sites, empowerment of women, etc.  We take pride in this image and need to continue to build it through our flagship publications like the Hydropower Status Report, through regional work and also through a series of projects with key partners.

It is important that evidence becomes evidence-based policy – adopted by governments and companies. Good practice must be embedded throughout the sector. We need a place at the table. We need to convene international debate as we have done through seven World Hydropower Congresses. This takes credibility, diplomatic skills and convening power. Turning excellent analysis into excellent policy and practice will be a key priority.