Working definitions

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy (sources) or RES capture their energy from existing flows of energy, from on-going natural processes, such as sunshine, wind, wave power, flowing water (hydropower), biological processes such as anaerobic digestion, and geothermal heat flow. The most common definition is that renewable energy is from an energy resource that is replaced by a natural process at a rate that is equal to or faster than the rate at which that resource is being consumed. Renewable energy is a subset of sustainable energy.


In the context of climate change and its impacts on precipitation, and given the critical socio-ecological impact of large dams on local populations, IDE-E does not consider large hydro power plants as fully renewable or sustainable. A strong preference is given to small hydropower (SHP), defined as installed hydropower capacity of up to 10 MW. SHP is considered one of the most reliable and economic methods of generating electricity. Its power profile allows it to immediately respond to fluctuations in demand, and address both base-load and peak-load demand. A well-designed SHP system can blend in with its surroundings and offer very low environmental impact.


Sustainable Development

The Brundtland Report (1987) defines sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The United Nations 2005 World Summit Outcome Document refers to the "interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars" of sustainable development as economic development, social development, and environmental protection.


Finally, indigenous peoples have argued, through various international forums such as the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Convention on Biological Diversity, that there are four pillars of sustainable development, the fourth being cultural. The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO, 2001) further elaborates the concept by stating that "...cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”; it becomes “one of the roots of development understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence". In this vision, cultural diversity is the fourth policy area of sustainable development.