Low-impact Hydro

Hydropower uses the flow of water to generate electricity. It produces no emissions, unlike conventional electricity sources. Certified low-impact hydro harnesses all of the benefits of hydropower while meeting more stringent environmental requirements — creating electricity with no greenhouse gas emissions and minimal environmental impacts.
In order to be considered for the Blue Sky program, a hydro project must be certified by the Low Impact Hydro Institute (LIHI).

Low-impact hydro is different from regular dams — here’s how. While hydropower produces no emissions in the creation of electricity, dams can cause other environmental and social problems. Certified low impact hydro projects, however, are required to meet high but achievable standards to minimize environmental and social impacts. 

Specifically, a project must meet criteria related to:

  1. river flow
  2. water quality
  3. fish passage and protection
  4. watersheds
  5. threatened and endangered species
  6. cultural resources,
  7. public access/recreation, and
  8. finally, a project cannot have been recommended for removal

The low impact hydro certification criteria are aimed at ensuring that the certified dam or run-of-the–river project adequately protects or mitigates its impacts on the environment and society.

Low-impact hydro project certification
The organization that certifies low-impact hydro projects is the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI).  LIHI is an independent, nonprofit organization that assesses hydropower projects on a case-by-case basis, to see if they really meet those strict environmental standards. If a project makes the cut, LIHI provides a certification, much like a “USDA Organic” sticker—to let customers know that its energy has been generated in an environmentally friendly way.  Owners of those projects get to distinguish their projects as renewable energy projects, giving them economic incentives to minimize their environmental impacts.  Find out more »