The assessment team also included Stephanie Nicolin from Åf Consulting, Eleni Taylor-Wood, Principal Consultant, Entura, and Douglas Smith and Simon Howard, both Sustainability Specialists with the international-hydropower-association. Ragnheiður Ólafsdóttir, Environment Manager, was the Landsvirkjun lead for the assessment coordinating numerous stakeholder interviews and the gathering of extensive documentary evidence.

“By becoming an iha Sustainability Partner and implementing the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol on the Hvammur Hydropower Project, Landsvirkjun has demonstrated their commitment to thoroughly and effectively assessing sustainability. I would like to thank all of the many stakeholders we’ve talked to this week for their informative insights, as part of the assessment process” said Douglas Smith, IHA Sustainability Specialist.

The Hvammur Power Project’s installed capacity is planned to be around 82MW, generating around 665 GWh of electricity a year. It forms one of three hydropower facilities being developed on the Thjórsá River in the Landsveit district of Iceland.

Landsvirkjun, an energy company owned by the Icelandic State, currently operates 13 hydropower stations as well as two geothermal stations. Landsvirkjun is Iceland’s biggest electric generator, producing over 75% of the country’s electricity.

“Landsvirkjun places great emphasis on utilizing Iceland‘s resources in a sustainable manner and on assessing the possible impact of projects on the economy, society and the environment. We believe that the International Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol can improve the sustainability of plant operation and the preparation and implementation measures for future projects,” commented Hordur Arnarson, CEO of Landsvirkjun.

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, a comprehensive tool to assess the sustainability of hydropower projects globally, provides a rigorous, evidence-based assessment of between 19-23 relevant sustainability topics, depending on the development stage of the project.

The Protocol is the product of a rigorous multi-stakeholder development process involving representatives from social and environmental NGOs (Oxfam, The Nature Conservancy, Transparency International, WWF); governments (China, Germany [as an observer], Iceland, Norway, Zambia); commercial and development banks (including banks that are signatory to the Equator Principles, and the World Bank [as an observer]); and the hydropower sector, represented by IHA.

The development process of the Protocol involved field trials in 16 countries, across 6 continents, and stakeholder engagement with 1,933 individuals in 28 countries.

The Protocol topics cover the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental, and include issues such as downstream flow regimes, indigenous peoples, biodiversity, infrastructure safety, resettlement, water quality, and erosion and sedimentation.

The assessment tools are used as a framework to produce a sustainability profile for a hydropower project. In so doing, multiple stakeholders can become better informed on the sustainability profile of a project, and develop strategies to address any weaknesses.

Implementation of the Protocol taking place in countries that are members of the European Union is supported through Hydro4LIFE, a European Commission funded project. Hydro4LIFE will demonstrate the Protocol and raise awareness of it in the EU, and serve to consolidate hydropower sustainability performance knowledge. The project is 50% co-funded by the European Commission’s Life+ Environment Policy and Governance programme, and 50% by IHA, with a total budget of €1.2 million.

Ten other international organisations and companies, as well as Landsvirkjun, have already become early adopters by agreeing to implement the Protocol in at least one hydropower project within their sphere of influence. Known as IHA Sustainability Partners these are: edf, E.ON, Itaipu Binacional, GDF Suez Energy Brazil, hydro-equipment-association, Hydro Tasmania, Manitoba Hydro, Odebrecht Energia, Sarawak Energy, and Statkraft.

Sustainability Partners receive training on the content and application of the Protocol, an unofficial Protocol assessment and an official Protocol assessment. Other Sustainability Partner models are also available to meet the relevant needs of participating organisations.