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Kicking off Waterpower Week in Washington: Simmons announces several DOE initiatives

During the opening plenary session at Waterpower Week in Washington, Daniel Simmons, assistance secretary in the Office of Energy and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, called hydroelectric power “the best portfolio at the Department of Energy.”

Waterpower Week in Washington incorporates the National Hydropower Association annual conference and the International Marine Renewable Energy Conference.

Simmons talked about three key areas in EERE – energy affordability, energy integration and energy storage – and showed how hydropower fits into all three areas. Referencing the need to ensure grid flexibility, to enable a more robust and resilient grid, Simmons said, “The original source of flexibility on the grid is hydro.”

Simmons shared with Waterpower Week attendees several new initiatives and announcements from DOE that will help advance various aspects of the hydropower industry. Some of these are:

A new research initiative, called HydroWIRES (Water Innovation for a Resilient Electricity System), focused on understanding and enabling utilization of the full potential of hydropower and PSH to contribute to electric system reliability and resilience, now and into the future.

Up to $26.1 million in funding “to drive innovative industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics industry and increase hydropower’s ability to serve as a flexible grid resource.”

The Powering the Blue Economy initiative, with a new report released, Powering the Blue Economy: Exploring Opportunities for Marine Renewable Energy in Maritime Markets, that explores a compelling set of eight blue economy opportunities that could be supported by marine and hydrokinetic technologies.

Next on the agenda was a panel discussion on Trends in the Energy Market and Their Impact on Hydro, which featured speakers representing four associations:

Miranda Ballentine, chief executive officer, Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance

Sue Gander, division director environment, energy and transportation division, National Governors Association

Thomas Kiernan, chief executive officer, American Wind Energy Association

Greg Wetstone, president and chief executive officer, American Council on Renewable Energy

These four panelists discussed major trends emerging and evolving that will significantly affect the energy market. They focused on a variety of issues, many of which overlap generating technologies.

Westone pointed out how current investment in renewables is primarily focused on wind and storage. However, there is a lot of opportunity in the U.S. in terms of pumped storage, he said. His association is targeting a pathway to $1 trillion of infrastructure investment in renewables by 2030.

Kiernan said pointed to the growth of wind energy in the U.S., as well as the interest in offshore wind. He highlighted the share of power purchase agreements shifting to corporate and industrial purchases.

Gander focused on the increasing interest in electrifying the transportation sector She pointed out that with 22 new governors elected, there is a new audience of legislators that will not know the issues various generating technologies are facing, so it is an opportunity to educate.

Ballentine said that about five years ago, when REBA started, there were 13 companies involved. Today, there are about 200 buyers “driving the clean energy future with their buying power.” Also, five years ago, the first wave of goals among REBA members was renewables, and that has shifted to a zero-carbon focus.