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publication March 2, 2020

Operation and Maintenance Strategies for Hydropower: Handbook for Practitioners and Decision Makers



  • With 1,300 GW installed capacity, hydropower is the world’s largest source of renewable energy generation, making it critical to pay attention to the operation and maintenance of these facilities. Since 52% of this capacity has been installed before 1990, these assets are particularly now prone to require major rehabilitation.
  • The handbook outlines practical steps and recommendations to prepare ad-hoc operation and maintenance (O&M) strategies that will help extending life expectancy of assets while securing hydropower production in a cost-effective way and preventing high-cost expenditures for rehabilitating facilities that have not been maintained properly.
  • The handbook is anchored in 6 case-studies and targets particularly hydropower facilities in developing countries, where challenging environment together with lower human and financial capabilities can hamper sustainable O&M of assets.

As more and more countries make a concerted effort to adopt more clean and sustainable sources of energy, hydropower remains a critical ally – not only to provide electricity access to millions of people – but to aid in global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Hydropower is the world’s largest source of renewable energy generation. It generated more than 4,200 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2018, accounting for more than 60% of global renewable energy generation and matching the potential for solar and wind power in several countries. The global weighted average cost of hydropower projects in 2018 was $0.047 per kWh, making it also the lowest-cost source of electricity in many markets (IRENA 2019).

When well maintained, hydropower facilities can last for more than 100 years and operate for decades without major work, whereas plants that are allowed to deteriorate require constant attention and frequent major refurbishment. That makes it essential for these facilities to have robust O&M strategies in place, recognizing that implementing such strategies go hand in hand with inherent challenges.

The Operation and Maintenance Strategies for Hydropower: Handbook for Practitioners and Decision Makers seeks to support all stakeholders engaged in O&M activities for existing facilities and greenfield projects, particularly in developing countries, where O&M performance is particularly critical, capabilities are often low, and the business environment is challenging.

The handbook was prepared in collaboration with numerous representatives of the hydropower community (including the International Hydropower Association - IHA) and with the financial support of the Swiss Cooperation (SECO) and benefited from lessons learned from 6 case-studies in Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda and Argentina/Uruguay.

The handbook was written with a focus on asset owners, facility and utility managers, and decision makers in government, utility operators, private developers, independent power producers and financial institutions, including development banks.

The following steps outline the process for preparing and implementing a good operation and maintenance strategy for hydropower facilities:


The handbook together with companion case-studies can be found here