HPNET evolves to the needs and challenges of local practitioners, in order to enable them to advance sustainable pico, micro, and mini hydropower (<1MW). HPNET's work streams are an opportunity for network members and multi-actor partners from across the globe to synergize in bringing forth South-South knowledge and advocacy outputs to generate local impact.
Is a work stream the same as a working group?
Work streams were formerly called working groups. Since many members contribute to more than one or change their focus based on their real time challenges and since the HPNET Secretariat plays a key role in facilitating as different members contribute at different times, we thought it was best to re-name as work streams. More information on how the thematic areas were identified can be found here.
How do they work?
HPNET's internal exchange platform is structured around the nine main work streams, allowing members and partners to contribute or request support on sub-themes of each work stream. In addition to the nine cross-country thematic work streams, members can take part in country-focused work streams, which allow members to strategize toward country-specific impact. Via the online platform and conference calls, the HPNET Secretariat then facilitates collaboration on knowledge and advocacy outputs specific to the needs and challenges expressed by members and partners. The HPNET Secretariat's annual work plans are structured to provide facilitation time to each work stream.
How can I take part in a work stream?
Apply to become a member of HPNET here. Once you're a member you will be sent a login for HPNET's internal exchange platform, where you can take part in any of the work streams, providing inputs from and/or requesting support for your local context.
Can I take part in more than one work stream?
Absolutely! This is the primary reason the working groups are now framed as work streams, whereby HPNET members can contribute to multiple streams on sub-topics that matter the most to their specific work.
Do work streams overlap with each other?
Yes, to some extent and in some cases, because key factors for long-lived micro hydro are interconnected. This is why, while each work stream focuses on specific themes, HPNET's cross-thematic initiatives leverage the overlaps for country-focused activity. For example, HPNET's Social Enterprise for Energy, Ecological and Economic Development (SEEED) connects the work streams of productive end use, local social capital, watersheds, and access to finance. HPNET's Earth Voices series connects the work streams of local social capital, environmental impact, productive end use and strategic advocacy.
Training and Manufacturing Centers
This work stream focuses on micro hydro local manufacturing centers and training centers that build the capacity of local technicians, fabricators, and engineers to design, build, install, and upkeep their own electro-mechanical systems (i.e. turbine assembly, generator, and load controller). Since currently micro hydro training and manufacturing centers remain under utilized or under resourced, the current aim of this work stream is to:
- Co-create, identify, or share curriculum to improve the quality of local fabrication, operation and preventive maintenance;
- Facilitate partnerships between members seeking technical knowhow and members who have micro hydro training or manufacturing centers;
- Promote local technology research and development with academia and other multi-actors;
- Develop advocacy and knowledge exchange material to promote local knowledge centers, such as this webinar and these videos from Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar training/manufacturing centers.
International focus on energy access has meant the greater extension of the national grid. Since most micro/mini hydro projects are typically off-grid, sustainability issues arise with the main grid's arrival. Practitioners across the regional are voicing for policies that allow mini-grids to interconnect to the main grid. In 2016, HPNET organized a practice-to-policy exchange engaging government, developers, and utilities actors from eight countries in the region to learn about pioneering grid interconnection micro hydro projects and to strategize change. Building on this, the work stream has helped to bring forth grid interconnection policy and projects in Nepal. In the wake of this progress, it has contributed to evidence-based advocacy. The current aims of this work stream focus on additional solutions to addressing sustainability issues of main grid arrival:
- Resolve techno-institutional challenges to interconnecting multiple micro hydro projects into a single mini-grid;
- Evidence to promote policies and funding resources for alternative business models after main grid arrival (e.g. anchor loads, selling to neighboring villages, incentives to compete with the main grid, etc.);
- Support advocacy and knowledge exchange material, such as this ESMAP publication, HPNET webinar, presentation, UNDP-RERL fact sheet and UNDP-RERL video.
Load Management and Controllers
The aim of this work stream is to improve the quality and utilization of electricity in micro hydro projects through:
- Establishing technical standards for micro grids, by collating existing standards with best practices based on field experiences and allowing practitioners to develop sourced standards that are specific to their approach and context;
- Improving availability of affordable micro grid controllers and load management technology, such as the Bluebird Open Source ELC and Canary Load Indicator;
- De-mystifying local controllers and additional features to open source load controllers.
Productive End Use
Micro hydro projects typically receive funding for implementation only. Once commissioned, projects must sustain themselves financially. Without financial viability, the governance body of the project cannot fund technical maintenance and repairs. Financial viability depends on income generated from the micro hydro system, typically as tariff paid by consumers. Many projects are not financially viable due to poor utilization of electricity, where only lighting is the main load. This work stream:
- Collates case studies of productive end use on the micro hydro, such as those here and presented in this webinar;
- Analyzes ownership and management models that lead to higher load factors;
- Assesses how financing models impact load factors;
- Supports barely sustainable projects to transition to financially viable projects.
Local Social Capital
This work stream focuses on social transformation aspects of micro hydro development and in turn its impact on the viability and sustainability of micro hydro projects. Micro hydro developers' capacities are limited to that of their community organizers because project implementation requires a unified and well managed community. Local change agendas trusted by the village are the key to community-driven project completion and long-term sustainability. They can come from various social sub-groups of the community. The objectives and activities of this work stream are centered on understanding and strengthening local social capital of community-scale micro hydro projects:
- How to ensure projects serve the needs of women and how to measure impact of women leaders on micro hydro sustainability and socio-economic benefits;
- How to promote youth leaders and consumers in micro hydro development;
- How to ensure local developers and NGOs have access to equal opportunities as do foreign developers;
- How to develop projects within social enterprise models;
- Collating the work of local change makers and enabling ways to communicate and scale their work, such as this local capacity building and this webinar.
Environmental Impact and Watersheds
Environment impact and watersheds are critical but often overlooked aspects of micro hydro development. Without a sustainable water source there can be no micro hydro project. Yet funding resources for watershed strengthening are rarely available for micro hydro implementation. In addition, as climate change worsens, the environmental impact to and from micro hydro projects will be changing. This work stream focuses on collating best practices to reduce micro hydro impact on the environment and find solutions to strengthen micro hydro catchment areas -- leading to increased climate resilience. The work stream's current aims are to:
- Understand the challenges and opportunities of HPNET members to integrate environmental impact safeguards and watershed strengthening in their projects;
- Identify knowledge gaps and target the development of specific knowledge products;
- Quantify the impact of climate change on catchment areas, as well as the increased climate resilience of micro hydro projects and communities due to healthy watersheds;
- Develop advocacy material that helps to link multi-actors that focus on nature-based solutions and watershed conservation to micro hydro implementation and practitioners.
Access to Finance
Accessing grants is becoming increasingly difficult and has always been difficult for local practitioners. In addition, an assessment across HPNET contexts shows that grant-funded projects often have issues in developing high utilization, whereas projects financed through a loan or some other finance have an innate structure for establishing financial viability. Thereof, this work stream:
- Documents evidence from HPNET contexts that shows how a project is funded or finance impacts its outcome;
- Identifies institutions that provide finance to energy access projects;
- Connects local practitioners to project finance advisors;
- Promotes solutions that enable access to finance, such as enabling the role of local banks, as presented in this webinar.
Integrated Energy Planning
Although there is evidence showing the advantages of mini-grids versus the central grid and analysis on how interconnecting mini-grids to the central grid has benefits for both, most energy access resources in the global South are spent on grid extension. Hydro mini-grids are particularly advantageous, providing 24-hour reliable electricity, typically at lower LCOE and costs per kW than most other types of mini-grids, and leading to lower tariffs for rural consumers and greater end use. Despite their obvious advantages, in most developing contexts decentralized renewable energy mini-grids continue to be framed as “pre-electrification” solutions at par with solar home lighting, or “not as important as the central grid.” To address these gaps this work stream advocates for integrated energy planning to scale up mini-grids with the following activities:
- Spotlight the work of local energy planners that are developing techniques and programs for integrated energy planning, as in this webinar;
- Facilitate knowledge sharing and access to mapping tools for mini-grid planning;
- Develop advocacy and knowledge tools to the make the case for integrated energy planning.
Although micro hydro interventions have been around for many decades, it is currently an underdog in the mini-grid context, which is dominated by solar PV mini-grid development. Therefore, this work stream focuses on awareness-building of multi-stakeholders on the cost-benefit of community-scale hydro and on the themes mentioned above, in the following ways:
- Online advocacy through webinars, videos, and other multi-media;
- Bi-lateral exchange between local practitioners and relevant multi-actors;
- Multi-lateral round tables to address challenges and opportunities for specific contexts.
- Advocacy at international conferences and events through panel discussions and presentations, such as this 'Deep Dive Session' at the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2019.