Albania’s hydropower sector embarks on sustainability initiative

Albania’s hydropower sector embarks on sustainability initiative

An initiative funded by the Swiss government inaugurates its launch with a commitment to assess the Skavica project

The Albania Power Corporation (KESH) intends to embed sustainability principles into the design of its planned 250 MW Skavica project, in accordance with international hydropower guidelines and assessment tools.

At the launch event for the new Western Balkans hydropower sustainability initiative, KESH’s Head of Environmental and Social Sector, Anni Kallfa, said she looked forward to applying the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, which are focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. “While electricity is the focus of the company, KESH also aims to adopt changes in the business environment, technology, financing opportunities and environmental protection,” she said.

Over the next year, experts from the International Hydropower Association (IHA) will offer capacity building training for KESH staff and assist them to implement good practices and undertake project reviews using the tools. This will be followed by an assessment of Skavica by an independent team.

The initiative aims to ensure that new hydropower schemes in the Western Balkans region are built in accordance with international good practices. It is a joint collaboration of IHA, KESH and the Government of Switzerland.

One of the objectives is to equip regional stakeholders with the tools and knowledge to ensure that projects are developed and operated responsibly, without the need for long-term external assistance.

The launch webinar organised on 10 March 2021 offered a platform for local stakeholders to discuss and share expertise on how to implement sustainability standards in hydropower development in the Western Balkans.

The webinar brought together stakeholders from government, industry and NGOs around the Western Balkans and beyond who have an interest in promoting sustainable hydropower development. Presentations from KESH, Statkraft, the Swiss Embassy and IHA provided a glimpse into the programme events and what to expect over the next year.

Sustainable project development

The success of sustainability assessments at another Albanian hydropower project, the Devoll hydropower plant in the country’s south-east, was also discussed during the webinar. Rigela Gegprifti, Albania Country Manager at Norwegian developer Statkraft, presented a case study, noting her team’s experience in using the Hydropower Sustainability Tools.

“One of the ambitions for the Devoll hydropower project was to be able to transfer technology, expertise and know-how to local Albanians. I strongly believe that this technological expertise has been transferred to many young Albanians that are the next generation of ambassadors of sustainable project development,” she said.

During the webinar, Senior Sustainability Specialist Alain Kilajian, IHA’s lead for the capacity building initiative, presented a range of sustainability challenges which should be addressed in hydropower projects like Skavica through use of the Hydropower Sustainability Tools.

“In a place like the Western Balkans, especially in a project like Skavica, which may cause resettlement, these topics have to be well-understood to implement a project that reaches international good practice,” he said.

Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of IHA, added: “We need to demonstrate that hydropower is not only renewable but also sustainable, meaning that the environmental and social impacts are managed responsibly – and that is the aim of this programme.”

Patrik Meier, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Switzerland in Albania, participated in the webinar and shared a presentation on Switzerland’s contribution to securing low-carbon energy supply in Albania.

‍ESG assessment fund

Hydropower projects across the Western Balkans region are eligible to apply for funding to support a sustainability assessment under the Hydropower Sustainability ESG Assessment Fund. The fund will award a total of 1 million Swiss Francs to 40 or more hydropower projects between 2020 and 2024. The fund is managed by IHA and funded by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).