The 2019 IHA Blue Planet Prize, which recognises excellence in sustainable hydropower development, has been awarded to the Reventazón Hydropower Plant in Costa Rica.
Reventazón is the largest hydropower project in Central America with 305.5 megawatts of installed capacity. Since it came into operation in 2016, the project has led Costa Rica to achieve a target of generating 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources.
The prize announcement was made at the World Hydropower Congress in Paris at an awards ceremony held on 15 May 2019. The recipient is the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Costa Rica’s national electricity company, which built, owns and operates Reventazón.
The project achieved proven best practice its management of communications and consultation, resettlement, public health, biodiversity and invasive species, and waste, noise and air quality, according to an assessment using the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol.
Richard Taylor, Chief Executive of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), said: “The winner of the 2019 IHA Blue Planet Prize, Reventazón, demonstrated remarkable sustainability performance across a range of performance criteria, meeting or exceeding international good practice in all 19 assessment topics. The hydropower project is a worthy recipient of the IHA Blue Planet Prize and is an example of many stakeholders working together to achieve a common goal.”
The hydropower plant is located on the Reventazón river in Limón province, 50 kilometres upstream of the Caribbean Sea. It was constructed between 2010 and 2016 and financed from a range of national and international organisations, including the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group.
On receiving the award, Irene Cañas Díaz, President of ICE, stated: “We are grateful to the International Hydropower Association in awarding the IHA Blue Planet Prize to the Reventazón project. This proves what 70 years of acquired expertise by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad can do, developing sustainable hydropower projects that comply with the best practices in the world”.
The judges commended the project team for identifying opportunities to improve social and environmental management, developing educational processes for associated stakeholders, and implementing measures to compensate and mitigate impacts on aquatic habitats and endangered species.
Reventazón is one of the first hydroelectric projects in Latin America to use a river offset approach, in order to develop hydropower potential while avoiding development in other free-flowing rivers. It shows how hydropower projects can make a significant contribution to biodiversity conservation at regional and basin levels.
The assessment was conducted by a team of independent accredited assessors using the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, with financial and technical support from the World Bank Group. This involved 90 interviews with relevant stakeholders and a review of over 470 related project documents.
Ruth Tiffer Sotomayor, Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank, who led the team that applied the assessment protocol in Reventazón commented: “We are happy to have supported Costa Rica in the first application of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol in the Central America region. We hope this award can motivate other countries and companies across regions to follow the best international practices that the protocol recognises for reducing impacts on people and the environment.
“This is an important award for ICE, its staff and Costa Rica, and an excellent example from the public sector of a small Latin American country to the world that we can do better hydropower, which is more inclusive and environmentally sensitive,” she added.
The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol was developed through 30 months of cross-sector engagement between 2007 and 2010, and is aligned with World Bank Safeguard Policies and the IFC Performance Standards.
More information about Reventazón and its assessment is available on www.hydrosustainability.org.
The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a non-profit membership organisation committed to sustainable hydropower. Our mission is to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. We achieve this through sector monitoring, advancing strategies that strengthen performance, and building an open, innovative and trusted platform for knowledge.
IHA is a champion of good practices and continuous improvement in the hydropower community. We support project assessments, and training for independent assessors as the management body for the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, comprising:
• The Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice
• The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol
• The Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool
Learn more: www.hydropower.org
IHA Blue Planet Prize
For a hydropower project to be considered for the IHA Blue Planet Prize, it must have undergone an official assessment under the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. Applications are judged by a panel composed of experts selected by the IHA Board. The prize was awarded to seven projects between 2001 and 2017:
- Blanda hydropower project, Iceland (2017)
- Andhikhola hydel and rural electrification scheme, Nepal (2005)
- Arrow Lakes power plant, Canada (2005)
- Sechelt Creek power plant, Canada (2005)
- Salto Caxias project, Brazil (2003)
- Palmiet pumped storage scheme, South Africa (2003)
- King River hydropower development, Tasmania, Australia (2001)
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