Breaking News: Hydro Currents

NHA drafts legislation to boost hydro development

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) released draft legislation entitled “Hydropower Renewable Energy and Jobs Act of 2010,” telling Hydro Review the bill is designed to significantly boost hydro development and spur job growth in the U.S.

“The purpose of the bill is to raise the profile of hydropower priorities and promote the resource’s many benefits as action moves ahead in Congress on a potential energy and or climate bill,” Jeffrey Leahey, senior manager of government and legal affairs for NHA, said in an interview.

The draft legislation contains energy policy and tax provisions designed to incentivize investment in hydropower, NHA said.

Increasing capacity at existing hydro projects, powering non-powered dams, and exploring new development options in pumped-storage hydropower and hydrokinetic projects are backed by the draft legislation.

A recent study by Navigant Consulting Inc. estimates the hydropower industry could add 60,000 MW of new capacity by 2025. Up to 700,000 jobs could be created by 2025 if the potential for new capacity is met, the study shows.

Linda Church Ciocci, NHA executive director, said: “NHA is working to bust the myth that the U.S. hydropower potential is tapped out. The recent study by Navigant Consulting demonstrates that there is a significant growth opportunity for hydropower, particularly by maximizing existing infrastructure and pursuing pumped storage and new ocean, tidal and instream hydrokinetic technologies.”

The NHA bill incorporates many policies already supported by NHA, as well as some new proposals, including a 2-year licensing process for “minimal impact” hydro projects.

Upgrades planned by Bonneville Power Administration

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) said it will spend about $2 billion in federal stimulus dollars to upgrade aging infrastructure at hydropower projects, enhance transmission lines, and restore fish populations.

BPA identified up to $2 billion in projects for which it will use funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. BPA has spent at least $174.4 million on these projects, which will enhance transmission and hydro system infrastructure, create hundreds of new jobs, implement energy efficiency, and construct fish hatcheries.

The projects identified for Recovery Act funding are under development, scheduled to be initiated, or undergoing environmental review in the next two years.

The measure increased the amount of money BPA can borrow from the U.S. Treasury. BPA must repay the money to the U.S. Treasury with interest.

BC Clean Energy Act calls for more hydropower

British Columbia announced a new clean energy plan that calls for increased efficiency and an increase in the amount of energy the province gets from hydropower and other renewable energy resources.

British Columbia, under the new act, decreed that 93 percent of its electricity must come from clean or renewable sources, up from 90 percent.

The British Columbia Utility Commission also will be required to ensure “appropriate rates” are set to advance the new energy policy.

“Our goal is to build on our unique competitive advantages with record investments in our historic ‘two rivers’ public power system and with new clean and renewable electricity investments and partnerships,” said Premier Gordon Campbell. “We want British Columbia to become a leading North American supplier of clean, reliable, low-carbon electricity and technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while strengthening our economy in every region.”

The Clean Energy Act builds on the work of the Green Energy Advisory Task Force, appointed in November 2009 to provide insights and recommendations on a comprehensive strategy to encourage clean energy development.

Taum Sauk resumes operation after reservoir reconstruction

The 440-MW Taum Sauk hydroelectric plant near Lesterville, Mo., is generating electricity and fully functioning following AmerenUE’s unveiling of a new $490 million, 1.5 billion gallon reservoir.

The Taum Sauk pumped-storage hydro project had been out of service since its upper reservoir’s mountaintop ring dam breached on Dec. 14, 2005, releasing 1.4 billion gallons of water down the Black River, injuring nine people and damaging property, including Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park.

The reconstruction of Taum Sauk included establishing one of the nation’s most rigorous dam-safety programs and the creation of the largest roller-compacted concrete dam in North America, said Ameren Corp.

The new reservoir measures almost a mile around and is made of crushed rock from the old structure. The 3.2 million cubic yards of concrete used during construction is barely less than the volume used to build Hoover Dam. The reservoir has 100-foot-high concrete walls.

The new structure has key safety features such as a higher dam crest to prevent overflowing, video monitoring of the upper reservoir, and the use of roller-compacted concrete for its construction.

U.S. awards contract for final phase of Red Bluff fish passage project

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region awarded a $67 million contract under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for Phase II of the Red Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project.

With this latest award, Reclamation is initiating the final construction phase of the project. The $67 million award was issued to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure of Fairfield, Calif., for constructing a 1,118-foot-long fish screen, building a pumping station, installing nine pumps and motors, and building an electrical switchyard.

Construction of the project is expected to begin in the summer of 2010, with completion anticipated in 2012.

Once completed, the facility will provide for improved fish passage through the existing Red Bluff Diversion Dam. The new diversion facility will be on the Sacramento River, about a mile upstream of the dam and two miles southeast of Red Bluff, Calif.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor broke ground at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam in March 2010 to begin the Fish Passage Improvement Project under previously announced ARRA funding.

The project will be completed in multi-phases by Reclamation, the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, and the state of California. The total project cost is estimated at $230 million and is being paid for partially by the $109 million in ARRA money.

Montana Supreme Court orders PPL to pay rent

PPL Montana is evaluating its options for dealing with a Montana Supreme Court order that the utility pay the state for the use of the riverbeds where PPL dams sit.

PPL Montana was ordered by the Montana Supreme Court to pay the state $40 million in current and past rent for the use of riverbeds where the utility’s hydroelectric projects are located.

The court found that the land under the dams is like any other public land that is rented out for purposes such as grazing cattle or drilling for oil.

A PPL spokesman said the utility’s options could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

PPL Montana, a unit of PPL Corp., said the decision could impact other river users, but the high court ruled that farmers and ranchers who use riverbeds for irrigation are not under the same rental obligations as power companies.

A state law says court-ordered judgments accrue interest at a rate of 10 percent a year from the original decision. The rent has been accruing since a district court order dating back to 2008.

The Montana Supreme Court ruling said the company would also owe for future rent, which will be determined by the state Land Board.

Department of Energy announces grants for hydropower

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will invest more than $200 million over the next five years in renewable energy development, including marine and hydrokinetic technologies.

The grants are intended to help renewable energy overcome technical barriers and demonstrate new technologies.

DOE said $39 million will be provided over the next four years for research and development in marine and hydrokinetic energy technology areas.

American Power Act lacks renewable portfolio standard

Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., released the details of their energy and climate change legislation. The measure did not include a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which the industry has been lobbying for.

Included is a statement from Congress on the importance of large-scale deployment and accelerated progress in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, direction for how the allowances distributed to states and Indian tribes should be used for promoting renewable energy and efficiency programs, and a statement supporting voluntary renewable markets.

National Hydropower Association Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said hydropower should be given a starring role in the nation’s energy plan.

“Accounting for two-thirds of the country’s current renewable electricity generation, hydropower must continue to play a central role in creating a clean energy economy,” Ciocci said.

President Obama’s proposal called for a 25-percent RPS by 2025, 100 percent new building efficiency by 2030, and the phase-out of traditional incandescents by 2014.

The Waxman/Markey bill mandated a 15-percent RPS with an added 5 percent efficiency by 2020, 75 percent new building efficiency by 2030, and appliance and lighting efficiency standards.

The Kerry/Lieberman bill mandates that utilities, starting in 2013 and other industries in 2016, must participate in a cap and trade system that places a price on carbon.

The goal for these measures is to reduce economy-wide global warming pollution to 95.25 percent of 2005 levels by 2013, 83 percent by 2020, 58 percent by 2030, and 17 percent by 2050.

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FERC to provide Web tools to aid developers of small hydropower projectrs

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will make available a series of Web-based tools that will assist developers and help make the small hydropower project licensing process more user-friendly.

FERC said the new tools are being introduced as increased interest is being shown in small hydropower development across the U.S. The resources, which will become available in August 2010 at, will guide applicants through the process of selecting a hydro project site, determining if a project is jurisdictional, selecting a FERC licensing process, consulting with stakeholders, and preparing a license or exemption application.

“Small and micro hydropower has enormous potential, but these projects often cannot be developed under traditional licensing methods,” Commissioner Philip Moeller said. “By our action, the commission is working to ease the regulatory burden of harnessing this clean and renewable form of energy.”

The new resources came out of discussions at FERC’s December 2009 technical conference on small, non-federal hydropower projects. At the December 2009 technical conference, participants noted the increasing interest in small hydropower in recent years.

In 2009, FERC staff received almost twice as many inquiries on small hydro issues than in 2008. And the commission has received more preliminary permit, license, and exemption applications for these types of projects.

British Columbia to proceed with Site C review

The government of British Columbia announced it is moving forward with the 900-MW Site C hydropower project on the Peace River.

The Site C Clean Energy Project will advance to the regulatory review phase, which will include an independent environmental assessment. The regulatory review phase is expected to take about two years, and it is anticipated that Site C will be available for domestic electricity need by 2020.

BC Hydro has considered, and shelved Site C several times.

“Hydroelectric power helped develop our province, and Site C will build on B.C.’s heritage of clean, renewable and affordable, power,” said Premier Gordon Campbell. “Site C will be a publicly owned heritage asset and will ensure that British Columbia has reliable sources of clean electricity, while contributing to our goal of electricity self-sufficiency.”

The project is expected to cost at least $6 billion and produce enough energy to power more than 400,000 homes. The project would involve construction of a power station near Fort St. John, British Columbia.

408-MW Taum Sauk authorized to resume operation

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authorized AmerenUE to resume normal project operations at the 408-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project, whose upper reservoir collapsed in 2005 in eastern Missouri.

FERC Regional Engineer Peggy Harding wrote AmerenUE April 1, reviewing the utility’s request to resume generation at the rebuilt project.

“Through participation in all phases of the design and construction of this project and as a result of our review of all documentation provided in support of your request, you may begin normal project operations,” Harding wrote.

AmerenUE provided FERC a final design and construction report dated March 24, 2010, that included certifications from the utility, its design engineer, and quality control manager that the project was constructed as designed and in accordance with approved plans and specifications. It also submitted a dam performance and instrumentation report that detailed the satisfactory performance of the rebuilt upper reservoir during a test refill program in March.

AmerenUE reported it completed a successful test March 20, 2010, of the upper reservoir level control and protection system, which is designed to provide adequate and redundant safeguards to ensure safe operation through the reservoir’s full range of operations. Paul C. Rizzo Associates Inc., AmerenUE’s design engineer and quality control manager, provided FERC a commissioning notice to operate the project March 26, 2010.

U.S. Senate Energy Committee endorses FERC nominees Moeller and LaFleur

The U.S. Senate Energy Committee endorsed May 6, 2010, the nominations of Philip D. Moeller and Cheryl A. LaFleur to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

In a unanimous voice vote, the panel recommended the full Senate confirm the renomination of Commissioner Moeller, a Republican, and the nomination of utility executive LaFleur, a Democrat. President Obama made the nominations to the five-member panel in March 2010.

LaFleur, of Massachusetts, was named to succeed Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, a New Mexico Democrat. Moeller, of Washington, was named to the commission by President George W. Bush in 2006, serving a term slated to expire in June 2010.

The pair testified April 27, 2010, before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“I hail from the Pacific Northwest, the region that most relies on hydropower to deliver needed energy to consumers,” Moeller testified. “With that background, I have worked to assure that my colleagues have a thorough appreciation of hydropower and the benefits that this resource delivers.”

Prior to joining the commission, Moeller worked in Washington, D.C., for Alliant Energy Corp. and Calpine Corp. From 1997-2000, he was energy policy adviser to Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash.

LaFleur said she has had a part in her region’s early lead in robust competitive markets, demand-side programs, and efforts to boost renewable energy.

At the same time, she said, New England lacks many indigenous energy resources and suffers from historically high energy prices.

“If confirmed as a FERC commissioner, I would work to understand and be sensitive to the unique situations and needs of different geographic regions and markets across the country and to approach all issues with an open mind,” she said.

U.S awards contract for dam removal study

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation awarded a $4.2 million contract to CDM Federal Programs Corp. for an economic study of an agreement to remove four dams in the 161.3-MW Klamath hydroelectric project in Oregon and California.

Project licensee PacifiCorp and other parties unveiled a settlement agreement in September 2009 on resolution of Klamath River resource issues and removal of the utility’s main Klamath River hydropower plants and dams, 90.3-MW J.C. Boyle, 20-MW Copco 1, 27-MW Copco 2, and 18-MW Iron Gate.

Parties signed two framework agreements in February for removing the dams by 2020 if Congress and scientists with the Department of Interior approve.

Reclamation awarded a contract to Research Triangle Institute to evaluate the economic potential of fisheries restoration. The settlement calls for PacifiCorp customers to pay $200 million of the dam removal costs. The state of California is to provide up to $250 million, with total project costs not to exceed $450 million.

The environmental review is to include development of a federal environmental impact statement, a state environmental impact report, a biological assessment, and a secretarial determination overview report.

Oregon group releases report to integrate wave energy

Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) released a report that includes strategies and technical tools for electric utilities to guide the integration of wave energy into the Northwest power grid.

The Utility Market Initiative (UMI) report was conducted on behalf of OWET by Pacific Energy Ventures, a renewable energy consulting and business development firm. OWET is a nonprofit public-private partnership funded by the Oregon Innovation Council.

Its mission is to support the responsible development of wave energy in Oregon.

The UMI report provides tools and strategies to address the technical and business issues facing utility companies and the wave energy industry.

The initiative addressed specific issues including: utility engagement, resource potential, business protocols, and grid integration tools.

The report also includes detailed analysis of Oregon’s wave resources, an overview of technology conversion options, and other information.

The UMI report is available on the Oregon Wave Energy Trust Web site at

FERC suspends guidelines for expanded civil penalties power

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) suspended its new civil penalty guidelines pending further public comment.

FERC issued the new guidelines March 18, 2010, outlining how it will wield new civil penalty authority granted to the agency by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The policy statement guidelines are modeled on parts of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, with modifications specific to FERC issues.

Less than a month later, on April 15, 2010, the commission issued an order suspending the new guidelines and declaring its March 18 action “as interim in this proceeding.”

FERC had conducted three workshops on the guidelines before it suspended them.

“The commission has determined that the public interest would be served by affording interested entities a broader opportunity to comment on the penalty guidelines before issuing a final order and putting them into effect,” FERC said.

It invited comments until June 14, 2010.

FERC said March 18, 2010, it adopted the guidelines after nearly four years’ experience with its expanded authority under the 2005 energy act.

The act expanded FERC power under the Federal Power Act and extended FERC authority to cover violations of the Natural Gas Act.

“This approach promotes consistency by basing the penalty calculations on a set of uniform factors that are weighted similarly for similar types of violators,” the commission said. “The penalty guidelines also provide specific credit to companies for self-reporting violations and for implementing robust compliance programs, thus further encouraging compliance by the industry.”

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