FERC official challenges U.S. hydro industry to add 90,000 MW

Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is challenging the U.S. hydro industry to develop at least 90,000 MW of new hydropower by 2030, calling projections of a possible 23,000 MW of new hydro by 2025 too conservative.

“I think 90,000 MW is possible. I think 23,000 MW by 2025 is not good enough,” Wellinghoff told the National Hydropower Association’s annual conference on April 15.

A 2007 study by the Electric Power Research Institute found at least 23,000 MW of additional capacity, including hydrokinetic and wave energy, could be brought on line by 2025. (HNN 3/19/07) Under a most optimistic scenario, the study estimated possible maximum development of 95,000 MW.

“Ninety-five thousand megawatts of new hydro by 2030 is a goal we can achieve and one we can be proud of when we succeed,” Wellinghoff said.

Industry pushes for higher R&D funding, extended tax incentives

A registered independent reconfirmed to FERC in December (HNN 12/20/07), Wellinghoff said the hydro industry has opportunities to increase efficiencies and requires the assistance of the federal government to advance new technology designs. NHA officials said the group is pursuing larger appropriations for the Department of Energy’s Water Power Energy research and development program.

NHA filed a request with congressional appropriators April 11, seeking $54 million for waterpower R&D in fiscal year 2009. The president’s proposed budget includes only $3 million for the program for that year, which begins Oct. 1, 2008. (HNN 2/6/08)

Wellinghoff also said there is a need to extend federal production tax credits and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds for hydropower and other renewable energy projects.

If Congress fails to act, the renewables incentive programs are scheduled to expire at the end of 2008. (HNN 4/10/08) There was a general consensus among speakers and conference delegates that the programs must be extended by the end of June to promote new development.

FERC refines guidance for pilot hydrokinetic projects

“We can’t stop where we are,” Wellinghoff said, adding that FERC is working to reduce regulatory barriers with policies such as its new licensing program for pilot hydrokinetic projects. He said hydrokinetic technologies will contribute substantially to the growth of new hydro and meeting capacity goals.

FERC issued a refined guidance document for hydrokinetic project developers on April 14 and distributed the document to NHA delegates.

The guidance builds on a policy statement issued in November 2007 to expedite license issuance for hydrokinetic pilot projects utilizing currents, ocean waves, and tides. (HNN 12/4/07) The document is available on FERC’s Internet site, www.ferc.gov.

Role of pumped storage discussed

Wellinghoff said building of pumped-storage projects also will help meet power system needs. He discussed a new commission order involving Nevada Hydro Co.’s 500-MW Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped-Storage project in California. (HNN 8/7/07)

Although FERC previously declared the Lake Elsinore project to be an advanced transmission technology for rate recovery purposes, FERC ruled in March that the project is ineligible for transmission incentive rate treatment. To be eligible, FERC said Lake Elsinore would have to be operated by the California transmission system operator, putting the system operator in a conflicting position of both generation operator and overseer of the grid.

Wellinghoff noted that both Congress and FERC have recognized pumped hydro as advanced transmission technology and said Lake Elsinore should be recognized with other incentives.

Congressman sees opportunity to expand hydropower

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., told delegates that hydropower is on the cusp of a clean energy revolution, and that now is the “perfect moment” for expansion of hydropower. He said he favors creating incentives for new sources of hydropower.

Inslee said most federal policies were designed to subsidize fossil-based energy through the tax code, and that Congress needs to reverse that subsidy. He predicted a “burst of demand” for hydropower once incentives for fossil-based energy are reversed, a “cap-and-trade” program is created for carbon emissions credits, and renewables incentives are made permanent.

“I look at you as co-revolutionaries,” Inslee said, likening development of clean energy to that of President John Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon in the Apollo space program.

The congressman is primary sponsor of the New Apollo Energy Act, which promotes the Apollo Alliance, a movement to invest $313 billion over ten years in alternative technologies to reduce U.S. reliance on oil and to slash carbon emissions while creating a clean energy economy. (HNN 2/1/08)

Energy demand growth spawns new opportunities for hydro

Leslie Eden, the outgoing NHA president, said energy demand has risen to a national level of importance, creating special opportunities for expansion of hydropower. Opportunities include improvements to existing projects, new pumped-storage projects for grid stability, sustainable small hydro, and hydrokinetic projects, she said.

NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said the hydro industry has achieved progress through years of hard work. She said by collaborating with other renewables industries and coalitions, hydro can do more.

“Hydropower is indeed a blue energy for a greener future,” Ciocci said, echoing the conference theme.

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