In the 21st century, swift advances in renewable technologies are rendering coal and hydropower too expensive, too destructive and too dirty to pursue.

Wind and solar are now cost-competitive with (or cheaper than) fossil fuels and dams, and quicker to install. Advances in energy efficiency, smart technologies and electrification are only amplifying this trend.

Wind farm | Photo credit: Narcisa Aciko

There remain however deep, vested interests in the generation of energy that push old technologies.  Despite the clear, growing global awareness of the unsustainable nature of fossil fuels and large dams, the legacy and embedded political interest in large, old fashioned,  energy infrastructure remains a hard nut to crack.   Power development plans need to be rethought, and renegotiated, adapting to new technologies, better management of demand, and delivering energy for all, while protecting the environment and our ecosystems.  

For decades, politicians, private sector providers and energy planners simply sought to put more power into a country’s electrical grid, regardless of who it benefited or harmed, and  with an eye for generating money from sale of power, often across borders. This model meant there were few incentives in developing policies that reduce demand or support more efficient supply.  Destructive hydropower projects are often wrongly incentivized, and their impacts are too often under-reported or never properly studied or valued. 

Our Work to Promote Sustainable Alternatives

International Rivers takes a different approach. We advocate for robust and consultative energy planning rather than a piecemeal, project-by-project approach, and we believe that integrated resource planning (IRP) is a key tool to chart a path forward.

Local communities need support navigating this landscape. Across the regions, we work with river communities to help them identify their energy needs and find ways to meet them without harming their lives, livelihoods, rivers or environment. We offer communities crucial information, exposing hydropower’s true costs, providing the latest research and education on alternatives and enabling knowledge-sharing across river basins and regions.

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