Jeff Opperman

Jeff Opperman

Jeff Opperman,United States

Jeff Opperman is WWF’s global lead scientist for freshwater. Previously he was the lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s Great Rivers Program. Jeff is the lead author on the book ‘Floodplains’ published by the University of California Press in summer 2017.

Presentation Title: Hydropower by Design: system-scale solutions for sustainable energy, river conservation and environmental flows

The world confronts a series of intertwined global challenges: maintaining a stable climate, delivering energy to support prosperous societies, and protecting healthy ecosystems. While hydropower is a leading source of renewable energy—and many countries will make it an integral part of their low-carbon energy systems—dams can have serious negative impacts on rivers, their ecosystem services, and the people that depend on them.  A dramatic expansion of hydropower risks solving the climate crisis at the sacrifice of much of the world’s rivers and what makes them unique and economically valuable to, and loved by, people.  Energy development and generation will always have negative impacts, and tradeoffs are unavoidable. However, many impacts can be avoided or reduced and tradeoffs can be eased. These improved outcomes can be attained by shifting the scale of planning and management: decisions about how and where to build dams, or how to operate them, can be moved away from the scale of individual projects and toward the scale of systems.  Here we describe Hydropower by Design (HbD), a comprehensive and system-scale approach to hydropower planning and management that fully integrates other economic priorities (including environmental and social values) from the earliest stages to promote sustainability and optimize delivery of benefits.  Through modeled applications of HbD we demonstrate that it can identify lower impact options for hydropower development compared to business-as-usual (BaU) approaches, for the same level of energy generation.  The global potential for these better outcomes includes a 100,000 km increase in the amount of free-flowing river compared to BaU. However, to encourage uptake of these approaches, decision makers must also see clear economic and financial benefits.  Through a set of quantitative case studies, we show that HbD can deliver economic value to countries and financial value to developers, implemented through feasible and practical mechanisms.

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