Advocating for Hydropower-Based Energy Solutions

A welcome groundswell of interest has risen in the U.S. Congress to tackle and solve the nation’s energy problems. Many possibilities for adding to energy supplies are getting serious attention, and hydropower is not being ignored.

One initiative focusing on hydro has been launched by some members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In July 2008, four Representatives announced the formation of the Congressional Hydropower Caucus.

Goals for this caucus include:

    — Promotion of hydropower as a clean, renewable, emissions-free, and relatively low-cost generation resource, especially in the context of energy supply, electric reliability, and global climate change legislation and research;
    — Gaining recognition for the value hydropower provides as a firming resource for intermittent renewable electricity generation, including wind and solar;
    — Protection of conventional hydropower generation facilities and promotion for the expansion of conventional hydropower; and
    — Advocating pumped storage and low-head hydro on canals and pipelines where feasible, and emerging technologies such as ocean wave, tidal, and hydrokinetic power.

The Representatives who collaborated in forming the caucus are all members of the Subcommittee on Water and Power, part of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

In announcing the caucus’ formation, each of the four sponsors had constructive comments:

— Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., who serves as chair of the Water and Power subcommittee, said hydropower is an important piece of the puzzle to achieving energy independence and addressing global climate change.

— Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., ranking Republican on the subcommittee, added, “At a time of growing energy demand, it makes no sense to throw this energy source away. I am committed, as we move forward with the debate on global climate change, and how to reduce our carbon emissions, that hydropower be recognized for the important role it has played in the Pacific Northwest.”

— Jim Costa, D-Calif., who serves as chair of the House Energy and Minerals Resources Subcommittee, said he believes it is possible to strike a proper balance of developing the nation’s resources and maintaining good environmental stewardship.

— Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said hydropower offers a viable option for consumers while its reservoir system provides optimal habitat for many species of fish and wildlife.

In June, the Water and Power subcommittee held an oversight hearing on “Hydropower: Providing 75% of America’s Renewable Energy. Exploring its Role as a Continued Source of Renewable Energy for the Future.” The proceedings of this hearing are quite interesting. The prepared testimony of the nine witnesses and a video of the proceedings can be found at http:// (click on “Committee Calendar” for June 12, 2008).

The Representatives who’ve founded the Congressional Hydropower Caucus deserve our support … and we should encourage other members of Congress to learn more about hydropower, and to join these leaders.


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