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The Swiss initiative on Hydropower at IRENA Assembly – a success story

The Ministerial Plenary Session on Hydropower, held at the 10th General Assembly (GA) of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) on 12 January 2020, was a key success for the Swiss delegation. Switzerland, together with the International Hydropower Association (IHA), the World Bank, Norway and other IRENA member countries, co-organized the Ministerial Plenary Session. It built on the first ever IRENA Hydropower Event, which was initiated by Switzerland and took place at the 9th GA in January 2019.

The Ministerial Plenary Session allowed for a lively debate among panelists from UNIDO, the World Bank, EDF Hydro and many IRENA member countries. It provided Ministers and key private sector decision-makers greater insights on the role of hydropower in the energy transition, as a means to increase energy access and as a source of flexibility, reliability and resilience to power systems. It also raised awareness on the need for financing and the importance of fleet modernization to ensure the longevity of existing hydropower fleets, as well as on the need to account for climate resiliency measures.

Switzerland has been advocating throughout its membership in the IRENA Council that IRENA affords more attention to hydropower. A key element of the Plenary Session was the proposal of State Secretary and Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) Benoît Revaz to establish an IRENA Hydropower Group. The Group is to steward the cause of hydropower in IRENA. More than 40 member countries supported the Swiss idea.

Among the countries, Colombia proposed that IRENA’s work on hydropower focuses on market and policy design. Ghana recalled that hydropower has been the bedrock of industrialization in most African countries. Hydropower has made Ghana’s smelting plant possible because of its affordability and reliability. Norway mentioned that hydropower has been fundamental in its economic and social development and that it is not only a great asset in the context of climate mitigation and variable renewables, but also a major asset for mitigating floods. Costa Rica underlined that it is not only important to preserve hydropower resources but to ensure that the technology used is up-to-date. Further supportive statements were given by Bhutan, Canada, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, the International Energy Agency and others.

Simon Büschi, Diplomatic Advisor, FDFA / SFOE

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