Montréal, August 29, 2023

Press Release

International Assessment Team awards gold-level Hydropower Sustainability certification to Hydro-Québec’s Eastmain-1 development

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

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 1,248 megawatts.

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 honored that the Cree communities that worked with us during the construction and environmental follow-up phases accepted to engage in the certification process.”

An added layer of transparency: Observers from environmental NGOs included in the process

Hydro-Québec chose to go beyond the Hydropower Sustainability Standard’s mechanisms for assured transparency with stakeholders by inviting four observers from environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to witness the assessment process during the on-site audit week that took place in September 2022. 

“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,” said 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: Outlining expectations for the hydropower industry

The Hydropower Sustainability Standard seeks to encourage and incentivize 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 Hydropower Sustainability Council and is widely recognized by civil society organizations and multilateral banks.

“All the renewable forms of energy that we need to use more of to decarbonize our economies carry baggage, so we need standards, whether it’s for solar, wind or hydro,” said 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.


Additional information –

Eastmain-1 Development Final Assessment Report

Profiles of assessors Joerg Hartmann (lead), Margaret Trias and Miles Scott-Brown can be found here

Hydropower Sustainability Standard


Media relations –

Lynn St-Laurent, Senior Communications Advisor and Spokesperson
514 358-5218

Hydro-Québec media relations line
514 289-5005

Hydropower Sustainability Secretariat
Mariana Empis, Sustainability Engagement Officer

Highest-level international certification for sustainability awarded to Eastmain-1 development

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