2015 – Environmental concerns encountered by lenders financing hydropower projects in developing countries

Jon Roe

This paper discusses the common environmental issues and requirements project lenders have when financing hydropower dam projects in developing countries. The environmental specialist’s role, as part of the Lender’s Technical Advisor team, is discussed throughout the main phases of project finance (credit approval, financial close, lending/construction and loan repayment/operation). Further, how environmental issues are reviewed and monitored, thereby minimising reputational risks to the lenders are outlined.
Lenders typically consider hydropower dam financing, especially reservoir schemes, as high reputational risk loans. Finance is usually syndicated and although most international lenders are Equator Principles signatories or use the International Financing Corporations (IFC) Performance Standards, some lenders have additional environmental guidelines and requirements to enable financing. These differences are discussed.
Common environmental concerns include loss of habitat of endangered and/or threatened species, changes to river flows, erosion and sediment control during construction, and the minimisation and disposal of project wastes.
These issues are discussed drawing on the author’s experience in monitoring environmental issues of hydropower projects in Asia Pacific and Africa, including both smaller run-of-river schemes and larger storage reservoir projects.
Keywords: Environment, impacts, project financing, concerns, lenders, lenders technical advisor.

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