Canada, North America, Regulation and Policy

Hydro Currents

Issue 7 and Volume 27.

Bailout bill extends renewables incentives

The House adopted a Senate-passed rescue package for the U.S. economy Oct. 3 that also renewed expiring production tax credits and other incentives for renewable energy including hydropower. The House sent the bill to President Bush who signed it. The bill extends for two years, to Jan. 1, 2011, the in-service date for hydropower projects to be eligible for production tax credits. Incentives were to have expired at the end of 2008. Eligible facilities include incremental hydro resulting from additions or upgrades to existing hydro plants, and hydroelectric projects installed at non-hydropower dams. The bill also added ocean, tidal, and in-stream hydrokinetic technologies to the list of eligible renewables. Those projects would have three years in which to be placed in service to be eligible for incentives; they must be placed in service before Jan. 1, 2012. Additionally, the bill extended for one year, to Dec. 31, 2009, the Clean Renewable Energy Bond program for public power utilities and electric cooperatives to finance plants that generate electricity from renewables. It also placed a new $800 million limitation on the renewable energy bond program.

Security chief: Neglect threatens dams

Although the United States increased security to protect its levees, dams, and power grids from possible terrorist attacks, U.S. Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff says neglect of ordinary upkeep exposes such critical infrastructure to dangerous decay. Chertoff said more must be done to ensure that structures can be preserved in the face of a serious natural disaster or through the ordinary degradation of the physical structure. “When a disaster occurs and these systems fail, then we have to turn around and pour huge amounts of money into emergency relief, response, and recovery, and rebuilding, often much more than we would have had to spend if we had a disciplined program of putting the investment in over a long period of time,” he said. Chertoff said a risk-based model that addresses terrorist threats should be broadened to identify critical infrastructure from the standpoint of natural disasters and wear and tear. Chertoff said evaluations are needed to determine the amount of money needed over the life of important assets to maintain and reinforce them.

Canada studies 464-MW Lower Mattagami

Canada Environment Minister John Baird ordered a comprehensive study as the most appropriate type of environmental assessment for the 464-MW Lower Mattagami hydroelectric redevelopment project in Ontario. Although most projects of federal interest are assessed through a screening process, a comprehensive study can be required for large projects that could cause significant adverse environmental effects or generate public concerns. Ontario Power Generation proposes to add 464 MW to its Lower Mattagami River hydro system by building a 264-MW powerhouse and upgrading three other projects, all on the Mattagami River northeast of Kapuskasing. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is to submit a study report to the environment minister, at which time the public will be invited to comment on findings and recommendations.

Congress allots $10 million for hydro R&D

The Senate approved a House-passed “continuing resolution” Sept. 27 to fund the federal government at existing levels into March 2009. The continuing resolution contains $10 million for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) hydropower research and development program, the same amount Congress appropriated for DOE’s Water Power Energy R&D Program for the 2008 fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. Due to Congress’ failure to approve most major appropriations bills during the current session, the House initiated the stopgap spending measure. Although Senate and House committees had endorsed $30 million and $40 million for the hydropower R&D program for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2008, those appropriations did not see floor action before adjournment. The $630 billion resolution ensures at least $10 million for hydro R&D, a program that has been zero-funded in years past.

FERC claims rule over ocean projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asserted Oct. 16 it has jurisdiction over hydroelectric projects on the offshore Outer Continental Shelf, despite a competing claim by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service. FERC addressed the jurisdictional question in a rehearing order involving two preliminary permits granted to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to study developing wave energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf off the California coast. The projects are 40-MW PG&E Humboldt WaveConnect and 40-MW Mendocino WaveConnect. FERC issued both permits in March. The Minerals Management Service asserted FERC only has jurisdiction over projects within state waters, typically extending only three nautical miles offshore. FERC said the Federal Power Act also gives it authority, without limitation, over projects on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Ontario urges more renewables in energy plan

Ontario’s energy minister directed the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to re-examine its proposed Integrated Power System Plan to maximize clean, renewable energy in the province. OPA filed its 4,000-page Integrated Power System Plan with the Ontario Energy Board in August 2007. The 20-year plan already proposes to more than double the amount of renewable energy on Ontario’s grid by 2025, including nearly 3,000 MW of new hydropower. Ontario Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman directed OPA to carry out a six-month review looking at: the amount and diversity of renewable energy sources in the energy supply mix; improvement of transmission capacity that is limiting development of new renewable energy supply; and the potential for pumped-storage hydropower to contribute to the energy supply.

Michigan renewables portfolio includes hydro

An energy package signed into law by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm includes a renewables portfolio standard requiring 10 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources such as conventional hydropower and hydrokinetics by 2015. The renewables portfolio standard requires utilities to obtain renewable energy credits equal to 2 percent of their electricity supply in 2012, increasing each year until the number of credits equals 10 percent of their electricity supply in 2015 and thereafter. Kinetic energy of moving water, such as waves, tides, or currents, and water released through a dam can be used to meet the mandate. Upgrades or replacements of existing dams also are considered renewable energy systems.

FERC draft EIS: Relicense Big Creek

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that recommends relicensing four of California’s Big Creek hydroelectric projects featuring seven powerhouses totaling 865 MW. The draft EIS, issued Sept. 12, endorses the relicensing proposal of licensee Southern California Edison, plus FERC staff modifications and recommended changes to proposed settlement agreement terms. Staff recommended new licenses for all four projects, saying they would provide a dependable source of electricity for the region, 3,177 gigawatt-hours annually. The four projects are: 385-MW Big Creek Nos. 2A, 8, and John S. Eastwood; 155-MW Big Creek Nos. 1 and 2; 174-MW Big Creek No. 3; and 151-MW Mammoth Pool.

Panel reviews Canada’s 1,550-MW Romaine

Canadian environmental officials named a joint panel to review the 1,550-MW Romaine hydroelectric complex proposed for the Romaine River in Québec. Canada Environment Minister John Baird and Environmental Public Hearings Bureau President Pierre Renaud appointed Michel Germain, an Environmental Public Hearings Bureau commissioner, to be chairman of the three-member panel. Other members are Louis Deriger, a part-time member of the public hearings bureau, and Jean-Guy Beaudoin, a retired federal employee who previously served as Québec Region director general for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The project includes 270-MW Romaine 1, 640-MW Romaine 2, 395-MW Romaine 3, and 245-MW Romaine 4.

Court upholds 54-MW Snoqualmie license

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld relicensing of the 54-MW Snoqualmie Falls project on Washington’s Snoqualmie River. The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe had appealed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) decision to grant Puget Sound Energy a relicense for another 40 years. Considered a sacred site by members of the Snoqualmie Tribe, the 268-foot falls are an important location for its religious practices. The tribe argued relicensing violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court said evidence supports FERC’s finding that relicensing does not substantially burden the tribe’s free exercise of religion. It also said FERC was not obligated to consult with the tribe on a government-to-government basis.

Innu pact backs 2,824-MW Lower Churchill

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Innu Nation reached a land claims settlement that could speed development of the 2,824-MW Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador. The aboriginee group agreed to support the Lower Churchill project in return for outright title to 5,000 square miles of land in Labrador, control and use of 22,000 square miles owned by the province, and royalty payments. The agreement also compensates Labrador Innu for effects of the existing 5,428-MW Churchill Falls hydro project; the Innu will receive C$2 million (US$1.9 million) a year until 2041, after which they will be entitled to a percentage of project revenue. The C$9 billion (US$8.5 billion) Lower Churchill project would feature 2,000-MW Gull Island and 824-MW Muskrat Falls.

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