The Reventazón project in Costa Rica, the largest hydropower plant in Central America, has been classed as an example of international good practice in hydropower sustainability.
It is the first hydropower plant in the region to undergo an official assessment under the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, a tool which examines a project’s performance against social, environmental and governance criteria.
The plant on the Reventazón river, inaugurated on 16 September 2016, was designed, developed and built by the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE). It has an installed capacity of 305.5 MW.
“THE HYDROPOWER SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT PROTOCOL OFFERS A COMMON LANGUAGE FOR THE MULTIPLE SECTORS AND STAKEHOLDERS INVOLVED IN HYDROPOWER DEVELOPMENT TO WORK TOGETHER TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY.”
The results of the assessment were announced on 27 September 2017 during an international workshop on the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol in San José represented by experts from 22 countries.
The workshop was organised by the World Bank, the International Hydropower Association (IHA), the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) and the Ministry of the Environment (MINAE).
“We are delighted to receive the results, which reinforce the good practices we implemented during the construction of the plant. Reventazón is a source of pride for the country, and is now among a select group of projects with this level of recognition,” said Carlos Manuel Obregón, executive vice president of ICE.
During the workshop participants recounted their experiences of applying the Protocol in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Iceland, Nepal, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Vietnam.
Launched in 2011, the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is governed by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, a multistakeholder body comprising IHA and representatives of the World Bank, the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders.
Irene Cañas, Vice Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), said: “The implementation of the Protocol is a clear sign of the commitment we’ve made as a country towards securing a sustainable and low-carbon economy. Evidence shows it’s possible to achieve an electricity supply based on renewables with a strong focus on environmental, social and economic concerns.”
Reventazón scored above three on all of the categories, meaning the project was deemed to demonstrate good practice against the evaluated topics. The project received best practice scores in communications and consultation, infrastructure safety, financial viability, resettlement, and public health, going above and beyond the requirements for international good practice.
“The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol offers a common language for the multiple sectors and stakeholders involved in hydropower development to work together towards sustainability,” said Richard Taylor, CEO of IHA.
“This workshop is an opportunity to share experiences of the Protocol’s application at hydropower projects around the world, to look at those good practices which should be recognised and emulated, and to assist project managers in focusing their efforts on continuous improvement.”
The Protocol allows for evaluation of a hydropower project at different stages of development, from planning, to implementation and through to operation. In Reventazón’s case, the assessment was carried out under contract by the World Bank, and evaluated 19 technical, environmental, social and business-related topics during the construction phase of the plant.
“Tools like the Protocol, together with international financing institutions’ safeguarding and performance policies, help strengthen the environmental, social and safety management of hydropower development, and reduce the impact on communities and the environment,” said Ruth Tiffer Sotomayor, Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank Group.
She added that: “The workshop is an opportunity to exchange experience on the Protocol’s application in different regions around the world, to share good practices, and ultimately to improve the environmental and social management of projects.”