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Report indicates hydro, other renewables will continue growth

The REN-21 Renewables 2011 Global Status Report, released in August, shows that the renewable energy sector, including hydropower, continues to perform well despite economic recession, incentive cuts and low natural gas prices.

The report was commissioned by the Paris-based Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, or REN-21. It was authored by Worldwatch Institute Senior Fellow Janet Sawin, in collaboration with a global network of research partners, including Matthias Kimmel, Will Bierbower, Lisa Nastny, Eric Martinot and Alexander Ochs.

According to the report, in 2010, renewable energy supplied about 16% of global final energy consumption and delivered close to 20% of global electricity production. Renewable capacity now comprises about a quarter of total global power-generating capacity. Including hydropower (with an estimated 30,000 MW added in 2010), renewable energy accounted for about half of the total added capacity in 2010.

New tool available to assess impact of building dams

A new tool is available to help policymakers better assess the costs and benefits of building dams worldwide.

The Integrative Dam Assessment Modeling tool, or IDAM, uses an interdisciplinary approach to simultaneously evaluate the distribution of biophysical, socioeconomic and geopolitical impacts of dams, according to one of the model’s creators, Bryan Tilt, an associate professor of anthropology at Oregon State University in the USA.

The model was designed as a decision-support tool that policymakers can use to understand holistically the impacts, costs and benefits of building a dam in any area. In July, researchers from OSU who developed the model presented this tool in Washington, D.C., to a group of policymakers, government agencies and environmental organizations from the USA, China and Southeast Asia.

The dam assessment tool measures the costs associated with a proposed dam development project and the possible benefits. Each of the diagrams in the tool consists of 27 individual indicators of the effects of dam construction, divided into socioeconomic, geopolitical and biophysical themes. For example, factors such as habitat restoration costs can be weighed, along with loss of income to local people and access to clean drinking water.

Tilt said the impetus for this dam modeling project followed the publication of the World Commission on Dams in 2000, which called for more equitable and sustainable decision-making with respect to large dams. In 2007, the National Science Foundation funded the research by OSU and its collaborators to develop and test this dam assessment tool.

Numerous studies modeling real dams in China helped the researchers refine the tool, they say.

Tool launched to advance sustainability of hydro projects

The Hydropower Sustainability Assess-ment Protocol, a tool to assess the sustainability of hydropower projects globally, has been launched.

"For years, the environmental community has been looking for industry leadership to raise the environmental performance of hydro projects and to avoid bad projects altogether," says Dr Joerg Hartmann, Water Security Leader, WWF International.

Launching the protocol at the International Hydropower Association (IHA) 2011 World Congress on Advancing Sustainable Hydropower in Iguassu, Brazil, were representatives of key stakeholders involved in the 30-month development process, including The Nature Conservancy, Transparency International, Zambian Ministry of Energy and Water Development and Itaipu Binacional.

IHA also announced the first eight Sustainability Partners who will promote continuous improvement of hydropower sustainability performance: Electricite de France, E.ON, Itaipu Binacional, Hydro Tasmania, Landsvirkjun, Manitoba Hydro, Sarawak Energy and Statkraft.

Sustainability Partners receive training on the content and application of the protocol and two protocol assessments, one of which is carried out by an accredited assessor as an official protocol assessment.

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol offers a consistent, globally applicable method of assessing performance in about 20 vital topics of the sustainability of hydropower facilities, depending on the stage of the assessment, IHA says. These topics cover the four principal pillars of sustainability: social, economic, environmental and technical. These topics include downstream flow regimes, indigenous peoples, biodiversity, infrastructure safety, resettlement, water quality and economic viability.

The protocol can be used during all stages of project development: early stage, preparation, implementation and operation. It has been designed to be used to assess the sustainability of hydropower projects anywhere in the world.

Based on objective analysis and documented evidence, the results of an assessment of the facility using the protocol are presented in a standardized structure and diagram, allowing transparent communication and rapid interpretation.

For more information on the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, see the article on page 24 or visit: www.hydrosustainability.org.

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