Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol

 1. What is the Protocol?

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is a tool that promotes and guides more sustainable hydropower projects. It provides a common language that allows governments, civil society, financial institutions and the hydropower sector to talk about and evaluate sustainability issues.
The Protocol offers a way to assess the performance of a hydropower project across more than 20 sustainability topics. Assessments are based on objective evidence and the results are presented in a standardised way, making it easy to see how existing facilities are performing and how well new projects are being developed.


2. What is the Protocol valuable for?

The Protocol has many uses each with distinct value, such as:
  • Independent review of sustainability issues
  • Guiding sustainability issues
  • Comparison with international best practice
  • Communication with stakeholders
  • Facilitating access to finance
  • Preparing clients to meet bank requirements
  • Reducing risk of investment opportunities

3. What does the Protocol cover?

The Protocol covers a range of topics that are important to understand the overall sustainability of a hydropower project. The ‘spider diagram’ below shows the environmental, social, technical and economic aspects which are included. The Protocol also includes ‘cross-cutting issues’ such as climate change and human rights, which feature in multiple topics. For each sustainability topic, performance is scored from one to five. Five represents proven best-practice, three represents basic good practice.

Click here to find out more about structure and content

Click here to download assessment reports


4. When is the Protocol used?

The Protocol can be used at any stage of hydropower development, from the earliest planning stages right through to operation. It has also been designed to work on projects and facilities anywhere in the world. It incorporates four tools:
  • The early stage tool, a screening tool for potential hydropower projects
  • The preparation tool, which covers planning and design, management plans and commitments.
  • The implementation tool, used through the construction phase.
  • The operation tool, used on working projects.

5. Who supports the Protocol?

6. Who has used the Protocol?

As of 2015, the Protocol has been applied all over the world at all stages of project development. Many companies have gone through training on the Protocol and undertaken an official assessment of a project as IHA ‘Sustainability Partners.’


Click here to see an interactive map of training and assessments

Click here to read more about sustainability partners


7. Who does the assessments?

To ensure high quality, all commercial use of the Protocol is carried out by accredited assessors. These assessors have significant experience of the hydropower sector or relevant sustainability issues, and have passed a rigorous accreditation course.

Biographies and contact details for the Accredited Assessors can be found here.


8. How was the Protocol created?

The Protocol was developed through 30 months (2008–10) of cross-sector engagement, including a review of the World Commission on Dams Recommendations, the World Bank Safe Guard Policies and the IFC Performance Standards. During this period, a multi-stakeholder forum jointly reviewed, enhanced and built consensus on what a sustainable project should look like. This forum included representatives of environmental NGOs (WWF, The Nature Conservancy), social NGOs (Oxfam, Transparency International), development banks, governments (China, Zambia, Iceland, Norway), and the hydropower sector.
A draft of the Protocol was released in 2009, which was trialled in 16 countries across six continents and subjected to further consultation involving 1,933 individual stakeholders from 28 countries. The final version was produced in 2010.
Click here for more information about the history of the Protocol.

9. Who governs the Protocol?

The Protocol is governed by a multi-stakeholder body, using a consensus approach in same spirit in which it was developed. This governing body includes representatives of social and community organisations, environmental organisations, governments, commercial and development banks, and the hydropower sector, meeting four times a year to guide the Protocol’s work programme. This approach to governance ensures that all stakeholder voices are heard in the shaping of the use of the Protocol and its future development.
IHA is responsible for the Protocol’s day-to-day operations, as well as other tasks such as overseeing training and accreditation, liaising on assessments, and co-ordinating governance activities.

Click here for more information on governance.