Search Icon White

Standards Spotlight

Views of Real-World Impact

ANSI shines a spotlight on Standards in action as they support safety, efficiency and well-being in interesting aspects of everyday life.


Standards for Hydropower Harness “Forgotten Giant” of Low-Carbon Energy


As the world seeks low-carbon energy sources to slow the impact of global warning, many leaders are turning to hydropower to generate electricity. Called a “forgotten giant” by the International Energy Agency, hydropower accounts for nearly one third of the world’s capacity for flexible electricity supply, and is expected to grow in capacity worldwide by 17% between 2021 and 2030. The U.S. is funding projects that support hydropower and energy storage as part of President Biden’s infrastructure law: $2.5B will support dam removals, upgrades of existing structures, and other projects to further the use of hydropower to generate electricity. These projects will increase hydropower’s role in the U.S. energy supply, retrofitting old dams while minimizing environmental impact such as damage to water quality and fish.

Members of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have long supported the technology behind hydropower. ASTM International developed ASTM D5674, Standard Guide for Operation of a Gaging Station, which covers procedures used commonly for the systematic collection of streamflow information. Continuous streamflow information is necessary for understanding the amount and variability of water for many uses, including water supply, waste dilution, irrigation, hydropower, and reservoir design. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) developed a standard, ASME PTC 29, Speed Governing Systems for Hydraulic Turbine Generator Units, that guides the machinery that converts the energy of flowing water, steam, or wind into mechanical energy, and then into electricity. Hydroelectric power plants have many standards that support their safe and effective operation, including these developed by IEEE: IEEE Std 1010, IEEE Guide for Control of Hydroelectric Power Plants; IEEE 807, IEEE Recommended Practice for Unique Identification in Hydroelectric Facilities; IEEE 1020, IEEE Guide for Control of Small Hydroelectric Power Plants; and IEEE 1147; IEEE Guide for the Rehabilitation of Hydroelectric Power Plants; among others.

Hydropower is gaining traction overseas as well, with China, India, Turkey, and Ethiopia furthering the global growth of this low-carbon energy source. International standards provide support, including this one developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO): IWA 33-1, Technical Guidelines for the Development of Small Hydropower Plants. This three-part document covers vocabulary, site selection planning, and design principles and requirements for the development of small hydro projects to serve isolated areas without a national electricity grid. It was developed by the ISO Technical Management Board groups (ISO/TMBG). ISO published an article highlighting the development and use of the three-part guidance in “The Power of Water.”

The International Electrotechnical Commission published an article on the hydro sector and their work of the coming years too. “The Power of Hydro features an interview with Pierre Maruzewski, chair of IEC’s Technical Committee (TC) 4 on hydraulic turbines, and he speaks on the challenges and new technologies surrounding hydro power. IEC standards support this technology, such as IEC 61362, Guide to Specification of Hydraulic Turbine Governing Systems, which is aimed at unifying and facilitating the selection of relevant parameters in bidding specifications and technical bids, and can serve as a basis for setting up technical guarantees. IEC TC 4 developed this standard, and NEMA is the USNC-accredited Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator for this TC.

Learn more about recent hydropower initiatives: Hydropower eyes bigger energy role, less environmental harm.