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Hydropower Sustainability Council awards gold certification for Hydro-Québec’s Eastmain-1 development

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Following a 14-month independent evaluation, the Hydropower Sustainability Council has awarded Hydro-Québec’s Eastmain-1 development with the highest-level certification under the Hydropower Sustainability Standard, which impartially assesses and rates hydroelectric projects for their sustainability performance.

Hydro-Québec applied for certification of its Eastmain-1 development in 2021. Located in the territory of the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government in northern Québec, this development includes two hydroelectric powerhouses with a total installed capacity of 1248 MW.

The Hydropower Sustainability Standard covers 12 environmental, social, and governance (ESG) topics. The assessors commented that “the assessment […] highlights the Eastmain-1 development’s effective management of environmental and social impacts, with specific areas of success identified in biodiversity and invasive species, labour and working conditions, cultural heritage, governance and procurement, and hydrological resources.”

Three independent assessors reviewed hundreds of reports and scientific journals, toured the facilities, and conducted approximately 50 interviews with local stakeholders, including members of the Wemindji and Waskaganish Cree communities who live in the vicinity of the infrastructure and participate in environmental follow up. Interviewees also included independent hydroclimatology and biodiversity researchers, local mayors, as well as Hydro-Québec staff members.

“Respect for Indigenous peoples is a fundamental requirement of the Hydropower Sustainability Standard,” said Julie Boucher, Vice President – Sustainability, Community Relations, and Communications at Hydro-Québec. “We are honoured that the Cree communities that worked with us during the construction and environmental follow-up phases accepted to engage in the certification process.”

“Hydro-Québec's willingness to open one of its major facilities up to external scrutiny is very welcome, especially as the company also invited me and three other independent observers to follow the audit process,” added Dr Jian-hua Meng, who sits on the Hydropower Standard’s Governance Committee on behalf of the WWF, which has no direct role in individual certifications. “This commitment to transparency sets an important precedent for the hydropower sector and will hopefully encourage others to follow Hydro-Québec’s lead.”

The Hydropower Sustainability Standard seeks to encourage and incentivise strong ESG performance in the development or operation of hydropower generation projects around the world. It aims to ensure that hydropower provides net benefits to local communities and the environments in which they live and carry out their activities. The Hydropower Sustainability Standard is an independent standard managed by the Hydro-power Sustainability Council and is widely recognised by civil society organisations and multilateral banks.

“All the renewable forms of energy that we need to use more of to decarbonise our economies carry baggage, so we need standards, whether it’s for solar, wind, or hydro,” commented Ashok Khosla, Sustainability Pioneer and Chair of the Hydropower Sustainability Council. “Hydropower, by itself and as a complement and supporter of intermittent energy options such as solar and wind, must be considered with objectivity and accountability as a key element in any meaningful transition strategy.”

Hydropower – a flexible and easily dispatchable source of electricity – is the only renewable option that can firm up intermittent renewables such as solar and wind power and support their development. Hydropower allows for the efficient and affordable integration of higher levels of intermittent energy sources without sacrificing reliability.

Hydro-Québec’s Eastmain-1 Development is the first North American hydropower facility to be certified under the Hydropower Sustainability Standard. Hydro-Québec chose to submit the Eastmain-1 development for certification because of the vast body of environmental literature available for the facilities it includes.



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