The 2019 World Hydropower Congress opened in Paris on Tuesday with delegates sharing perspectives on the role of hydropower in helping countries achieve national priorities and bringing social, economic and environmental benefits to communities.
In his speech at the opening plenary, IHA President Ken Adams welcomed the 750 participants and partners from more than 70 countries that are taking part in this year’s event, which is organised by the International Hydropower Association (IHA).
“Joining us in Paris at this seventh World Hydropower Congress are more than 50 partners from all parts of the world representing civil society organisations, international organisations, science, finance, business, academia and government,” said Mr Adams.
The theme of the 2019 congress is ‘The Power of Water in a Sustainable, Interconnected World’ which focuses on hydropower’s role in delivering on the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mr Adams stressed the importance of collaboration between the hydropower sector and wider communities and highlighted IHA’s work to champion sustainable practices. “The spirit of IHA has always been to engage in dialogue with stakeholders from different countries, sectors and backgrounds. We believe that stronger outcomes are ensured when objectives are shared and dialogue is open.
“The largest community which we are all a part of is the human community, living on a planet facing unprecedented stress and having to build consensus and achieve action to build a more sustainable future. We support the Sustainable Development Goals and believe the targets set by the Paris Agreement require us all to work harder to ensure that renewable energy can be provided to all in a sustainable way,” he said.
Maria Donoso, Director of Water Sciences at UNESCO, said her organisation was proud to be associated with the World Hydropower Congress as one of the co-convenors.
“This an opportunity to showcase the critical contribution of hydropower in addressing sustainable development challenges,” she said. “To reach Article 2 of the Paris Agreement there is a need to reduce emissions, notably by limiting the production of energy from coal sources and by embracing renewable sources of energy such as hydropower.
“Hydropower infrastructure also has a key role to play in adaptation. It provides water services, including water supply, irrigation, navigation, flood control, drought mitigation, and energy security, and facilitates regional cooperation,” she said.
Riccardo Puliti, the World Bank Group’s Head of Energy and Extractive Resources Global Practice, said his organisation backs the sustainable development of hydropower. “We are supportive for three main reasons: we believe that hydropower is key to reaching the Paris Agreement, we view hydropower as essential for increasing the integration of renewable energy into the world’s power systems, and we support hydropower’s role in improving regional integrated water resource management.”
Despite its promise, globally, investment in the renewable sector has slowed, warned Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA plans to dedicate its next renewable energy report to hydropower, he said.
“Hydropower – why are we so keen? Because of its potential, especially in Africa,” said Dr Birol. “Today in Sub-Saharan Africa two out of three people have no access to electricity. Morally, it is a shame for all of us.
“We think hydropower can provide a lot of benefits to our societies, ranging from electricity access in emerging economies, reduction of CO2 emissions, reduction of air pollution, and we can nicely integrate it with solar and wind,” he added.
The opening session of the World Hydropower Congress on 14 May 2019 also saw speeches from representatives of business and non-profit organisations, and ministers and senior officials from Guatemala, India, Nepal, Norway, Sarawak (Malaysia) and the United States.
The importance of ensuring that energy and economic development goals are balanced with social and environmental priorities, including protecting biodiversity, was a message which echoed through the interventions.
Jean-Bernard Levy, CEO of EDF, said his organisation had adopted six Corporate Social Responsibility Goals which echo the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including a goal for the company to have a positive effect on biodiversity.
Mr Levy noted the flexibility and storage capabilities of renewable, rechargeable hydropower. “Hydropower is today the most efficient technology to store significant energy quantities, especially pumped storage plants (PSP). This is why PSPs are a key part of our so-called EDF Storage Plan which aims at developing 10 GW of energy storage capacity worldwide by 2035, among which 2 GW will be fulfilled by PSPs,” he said.
Earlier this year the Indian government approved measures to promote hydropower development including declaring large hydro projects as renewable. Joint Secretary of Power Shri Aniruddha Kumar told delegates that “hydropower undoubtedly has a major role to play” in achieving renewable targets, as he restated his government’s commitment to a rigorous approvals process for new projects.
“We do not want to push development at the cost of the environment or the people. Projects are only going to be approved for construction after rigorous environmental impact studies and implementation of detailed environment management plans,” he said.
Elliot Harris, Assistant Secretary General for UNDESA, said: “The potential of hydropower in its contribution to both the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development is huge, however the development of hydropower does not come without potential environmental and social costs. So it is critical that hydropower developments take measures to maximise benefits and compensate for any costs.”
Mr Harris pointed to the example of Itaipu Binacional, which operates the Itaipu power plant, as an example of good practice in this endeavour. “The experience of Itaipu Binacional shows how it is possible to promote the conservation of biodiversity and local cultures while at the same time harnessing the power of hydropower resources for energy, economic development and climate action.”
The opening plenary concluded with an intervention from renewable energy cultural ambassador and former Eurovision singer Ruslana who spoke about her efforts to widen public awareness of the goal of achieving 100 per cent renewable electricity generation.
The World Hydropower Congress continues on Wednesday 15 May and Thursday 16 May with more than 200 speakers addressing 40 focused sessions and workshops on topics such as sustainability, climate resilience, data solutions, working with indigenous communities, and supporting growth in other renewables.
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