Kárahnjúkar is a 690 MW hydroelectric power project located in eastern Iceland. It was commissioned in 2007 and is owned and operated by Landsvirkjun. Kárahnjúkar is the largest power project in Iceland and accounts for about 1/3 of Landsvirkjun’s and 1/4 of Iceland’s electricity generation.
The assessment was carried out over the period August to November 2017 using the operation tool of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. The Protocol assesses 20 topics and assigns scores for each between 1 and 5, with 5 representing Proven Best Practice and 3 representing Basic Good Practice.
Kárahnjúkar was built primarily to supply power to Alcoa’s aluminium smelter in Fjardaál, through dedicated transmission lines. This is the largest industrial facility in Iceland, producing about 350,000 tonnes of aluminium per year. At the time of construction, the hydropower project and smelter were more controversial than any other large projects in Iceland’s history. Over the first ten years of operations, Landsvirkjun and Alcoa have made significant efforts to mitigate their social and environmental impacts, to create socio-economic benefits, to document changes in the region through a transparent process, and to communicate and cooperate with local communities.
These issues are reflected in the findings of this assessment, and in a range of high scores that summarise the findings. Kárahnjúkar meets proven best practice on 11 out of 17 relevant topics and exceeds Basic Good Practice on all six remaining topics.