National Hydropower Association sees development opportunities

A newly completed study of U.S. hydropower potential, presented to the National Hydropower Association, finds at least 23,000 MW of additional hydropower capacity could be brought on line by 2025.

Doug Dixon, manager of the study project for the Electric Power Research Institute, told the NHA annual conference that EPRI investigators reviewed conventional hydroelectric projects and new technologies using energy from tides, ocean waves, and currents. The 23,000 MW figure includes 10,000 MW from conventional hydro, 3,000 MW from new hydrokinetic technologies, and 10,000 MW from ocean wave energy devices.

The report calls for several measures to accomplish development of hydropower’s potential, including a public-private sector program called the Advanced Water Energy Initiative. The program would provide research, development, demonstration, and deployment guidance, as well as funding of $212 million in the short-term, and $377 million through 2015. It would be designed to achieve near-term conventional hydro gains while fostering development and commercialization of technologies that produce energy from hydrokinetics and ocean waves.

The report also calls for extending the federal production tax credit and Clean Renewable Energy Bond programs to 2015 to foster investment in modernizing existing hydropower facilities, and installing new generation at existing dams. The report also suggests enhancements to the regulatory process could contribute to reaching hydropower’s potential.

Dixon, who spoke March 15 at the March 15-18 conference, said the hydro industry must step up and show interest in the Advanced Water Energy Initiative if the program is to be successful. The EPRI report is scheduled for release at the end of March, and will be available to the public.

DOE study finds 1,100 MW could be added to Corps facilities

In another examination of hydro potential, an official of the Corps of Engineers previewed an upcoming Department of Energy report on the potential for new generation at existing federal hydroelectric projects and non-power water projects.

Manager Kamau Sadiki of the Corps’ National Hydropower Business Program said the report, ordered by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, is to be released soon.

Sadiki said agencies evaluated 871 existing federal facilities, with and without hydropower, for hydro generation potential and economic viability. Facilities included 218 sites under the jurisdiction of the Corps and 653 under jurisdiction of the Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

As an example, he said Corps figures indicate more than 1,100 MW could be added to the agency’s existing federal facilities. He said 819 MW of capacity could be added to 47 non-hydro facilities, while another 358 MW could be added to 11 existing Corps hydropower projects.

Additional information is to be available when the report is released.

More than 400 participants attended the 2007 NHA conference at Washington’s Capital Hilton Hotel. Sessions examined subjects such as state and federal renewable portfolio standards, production incentives, operations and maintenance, hydro development, and policies and regulations.

Conference hears progress on hydro development incentives

Speakers indicated a key to developing much of the envisioned hydropower potential is firming up and expanding incentives for hydropower development.

Outgoing NHA President Dave Youlen, of Brookfield Power, said the production tax credit, an incentive offered to hydro project owners for additional generation from equipment upgrades and other improvements, should be extended three to five years. He noted his company expects to complete improvements to ten projects by Dec. 31, 2007, the original deadline for the tax credit, which now is set to expire at the end of 2008.

Newly named NHA President Leslie Eden said NHA must communicate, educate, and inform the public and Congress about what is needed to advance hydro. Eden, president of HCI Publications, said legislators must know what hydro can do. By getting the right message to the right people now, �possibilities are hydroelectrifying,� she said.

�We need to ratchet up our communications to reach the opportunity before us,� Eden said.

Timothy Jones of the Internal Revenue Service announced the IRS issued an invitation March 15 calling for electric cooperatives, public power utilities, and other government entities to apply for $400 million in new bonding authority available from the Clean Renewable Energy Bond Program. Applications are due by July 13. (HNN 3/19/07)

A top aide of a New Mexico congressman said another type of potential hydro incentive is included in a federal renewables portfolio standard bill, H.R. 969, introduced in the current session of Congress. That bill, introduced Feb. 8, would require retail electric utilities to generate at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020. It also would permit retail electric suppliers to satisfy requirements by submitting renewable energy credits. The bill sets mandates for calendar years 2010-2039.

Johanna Polsenberg, senior legislative assistant to Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Udall, who introduced the bill, has secured 40 co-sponsors.

The bill includes incremental hydropower, as well as ocean and tidal energy. It defines incremental hydro as additional generation achieved from increased efficiency or additions of capacity after the date the bill is enacted, or the effective date of an applicable state renewables portfolio standard program. It applies only to hydroelectric facilities originally placed in service before that date. However, the bill does not include incremental hydro at existing hydro facilities where there is an increase in flow, and it does not include new hydro at non-hydro dams.

Nearly two dozen states have some form of renewables portfolio standard for power providers to include renewables in their portfolio. However, the states are not in agreement on what hydropower should be eligible for their programs. One power producer said the renewables portfolio policy for the state of New York sends the market an effective signal, but government should make a longer commitment to hydropower to spur expansion of the base for manufacturers and suppliers.

Hydro seen benefiting from climate change concern

Climate change implications were highlighted in the opening plenary session by NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci. She said concern over climate change has created critical mass, and will drive multiple initiatives that could benefit hydropower.

She said hydropower is the core renewable resource to meet aggressive goals for clean energy and renewables. Ciocci added hydropower is forever evolving and is the best hope in meeting new energy demand in a changing world.

In a subsequent session on hydro’s role in climate change, Steven Kline, vice president for government affairs and the environment at Pacific Gas &Electric Co., said hydropower plays a significant role in helping PG&E meet its climate change objectives. He said more than 20 percent of electricity the utility provides to its customers comes from hydropower.

To meet necessary emission reductions over the next several decades, hydro and related resources must continue to play a significant role, he said.

However, he said, because climate change could alter the availability of hydro resources, understanding potential impacts and system dynamics is critical. Kline noted the California Environmental Protection Agency projects that global climate change will reduce California’s snowpack by up to 40 percent later this century, with adverse consequences for water resources and hydro generation.

Kline said challenges of climate change include:
o preserving existing hydro capacity;
o creating opportunities for incremental production from existing facilities;
o internalizing energy efficiency into operations/pumping;
o understanding potential impacts on operations; and
o expanding the definition of hydropower to include new technologies such as wave and tidal power.

FERC member: Streamline review of new technologies

In remarks to conference delegates March 17, Commissioner Philip Moeller of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said he is interested in whether the hydropower licensing process can be streamlined for new hydroelectric technologies.

The commissioner said FERC’s December 2006 technical conference on new technologies made it clear to him that new technology is capturing people’s attention. (HNN 12/8/06) He added that such interest could benefit conventional hydro.

Moeller said he has asked the commission to conduct another technical conference on the issue of streamlining regulation of new technologies.

The commissioner also spoke about FERC’s September 2006 policy statement providing guidance on negotiating settlement agreements in hydro licensing proceedings. He noted FERC took the rare step of requesting comments on the policy statement, which advised parties on the types of settlement issues that are permissible for inclusion in FERC licenses. (HNN 9/25/06)

Moeller said a public forum would be held in the next few months to discuss issues brought up in the comments and to elaborate on principles discussed in the policy statement.

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