Geothermal Sustainability Assessment Protocol (GSAP)

Geothermal needed a standard. A global standard. Cohesive, encompassing, cross-cutting and complying with sustainability development goals. Where stakeholders are included.

Geothermal Toolbox Philosophy

Background & History

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, HSAP, was prepared at the initiative of the International Hydropower Association, IHA, and issued in November 2010. The Protocol is a product of a considerable effort by multi-stakeholder parties, representing the hydropower industry, several developing and developed countries, the finance sector and international environmental and social NGOs. The aim is to provide a tool to measure, guide and improve the performance in the industry for the key sustainability factors, social, environmental and economic. It enables the production of a sustainability profile for a project through the assessment of performance within important sustainability topics. Separate protocol documents were provided for project stages; Early Stage, Preparation, Implementation and Operation. The HSAP is governed by the multi-stakeholder Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council and assessments are performed by accredited assessors. Comprehensive information is found on the Council webpage: and the general approach is explained in the first part of the Assessment Protocol.

Representatives from Iceland were active participants in the preparation of HSAP, including the multistakeholder Forum established for the Protocol. Also, Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company, has applied HSAP for assessments of several projects and operating facilities. These assessments were considered highly valuable and they initiated positive improvements of procedures and work methods. In addition to hydro, geothermal development has a long history in Iceland and is highly advanced, for electrical production, space heating and various industrial purposes. In this context, members of the Icelandic power sector proposed to adapt the internationally recognized and fully tested HSAP to geothermal plants.

Two governmental agencies and three power companies formed a Working Group for the GSAP initiative:

As a first step, a Draft GSAP Preparation Stage was prepared in 2016 and a subsequent test assessment performed for the Theistareykir 90 MWe geothermal project in Northeast Iceland, under construction by Landsvirkjun at the time. The resulting assessment report was published on the website, News archive, date 15.6.2017. As a next step a Draft GSAP Operation Stage was prepared in 2017 and a subsequent test assessment performed for the Hellisheidi 300 MWe/130 MWth geothermal plant in Southwest Iceland, owned and operated by ON Power, a subsidiary of Orkuveita Reykjavikur (OR), Reykjavik Energy. The resulting assessment report was published on the website, UTGEFID EFNI (published material), 22.06.2018. In 2019, a newly added HSAP assessment Topic on Climate Change Mitigation and Resilience was adapted and added to the Draft GSAP.

The required adaption changes from HSAP to GSAP have been kept to a minimum with the aim to maintain as much as possible the international recognition and multi-stakeholder consensus obtained for the HSAP. Further modifications and streamlining remain to be addressed, preferably in co-operation with a prospective wider participation. In short, the test assessments illustrate the applicability of such an adapted GSAP, obstacles were not found in the process related to the fact that the plants were geothermal and not hydro. The products provide a good illustration of this method for sustainability assessment of a geothermal project.