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Our history

The International Hydropower Association was formed on 16 November 1995 under the auspices of UNESCO. In the two decades since, the hydropower sector has seen tremendous growth – doubling in size from 625 GW to over 1,250 GW today.

With this growth has come increasing recognition that hydropower development must be delivered according to fundamental principles of sustainability: respecting the rights of communities and bringing clear environmental benefits.

A watershed moment came in 2000 with the publication of the World Commission on Dams report. This marked the beginning of a new era for hydropower, with increasing focus on the participation of affected communities in project planning.

In the years that followed the report, IHA participated in the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Dams and Development Project, and have continued to support international efforts to share and build knowledge on best practice in the hydropower sector.

Growth and partnerships

IHA employed its first full-time staff member in 2001 and, in 2010, opened new regional liaison offices in China and Brazil. By 2012 we had expanded to 15 staff.

In 2004, we became a founding member of the International Renewable Energy Alliance (REN Alliance) along with our association partners from the bioenergy, geothermal, solar and wind industries. The alliance was established to advance the role of renewable energy systems, and continues to build influence today.

A custodian of sustainability

The publication of IHA's first sustainability guidelines for hydropower projects in 2004, followed by an initial IHA sustainability protocol in 2006, was an important step in providing tools for developers to guide performance.

This work was the basis for our engagement in the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum, a multistakeholder body consisting of representatives of governments, commercial and development banks, social and environmental NGOs, and the hydropower sector.

The forum, which we initiated in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Nature Conservancy (TNC), collaborated over three years to refine a new tool to measure and guide performance in the hydropower sector: the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol.

We have supported the implementation of the Protocol since its launch in 2011, and now work in partnership with leading experts and companies to support its application as a tool for promoting sustainability, taking account of different local and regional contexts.

World Hydropower Congress

Building a community and creating a platform for knowledge have been central to our work in recent years. In 2007, we hosted our first world congress in Turkey, bringing together leading hydropower decision-makers, policy-makers and influencers.

We have continued to stage the World Hydropower Congress every two years, moving around the globe: 2009 in Iceland, 2011 in Brazil, 2013 in Malaysia, 2015 in China, 2017 in Ethiopia and 2019 in Paris, France.