FERC reports its hydro regulatory performance in Fiscal 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reported its accomplishments in hydropower licensing and safety as part of its Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 2010.

Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff released the report Nov. 15, in accordance with guidelines of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“The report details the progress the commission has made in assisting consumers obtain reliable, efficient, and sustainable energy services at a reasonable cost through appropriate regulatory and market means,” Wellinghoff said in his accompanying letter.

Commission advances hydrokinetic technologies

Among FERC’s “noteworthy accomplishments,” the report said the commission continued in FY 2010 to foster the orderly and environmentally sound development of hydrokinetic technologies.

It noted FERC signed a memorandum of understanding with the state of California in May to coordinate procedures to review hydrokinetic projects off the coast of California. It also signed an agreement with the Coast Guard in June to coordinate processing the large number of proposed hydrokinetic projects in the Mississippi River.

The report added that FERC is working internationally to advance hydrokinetics.

“The commission is serving as a team co-lead, with the Department of Energy and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, on the International Energy Agency-Ocean Energy Systems Annex IV, which is gathering worldwide data on environmental effects, mitigation, and monitoring for hydrokinetic projects,” the report said.

Additionally, it said FERC is processing two license applications and more than 50 pre-filing applications for hydrokinetic projects representing 6,300 MW.

Initiative fosters small hydropower licensing

The commission also reported on the results of a technical conference it organized to explore issues of the licensing and exempting from licensing of small hydropower projects.

In response to comments, FERC adopted an action plan to expedite small hydro and an Internet site to help prospective developers select a project site, determine if a project is FERC-jurisdictional, select a FERC licensing process, consult with stakeholders, and prepare applications using fill-in-the-blank templates. FERC sponsored an Internet seminar in November to explain the website and scheduled a second such “webinar” Dec. 14.

FERC also signed a memorandum of understanding in August with the state of Colorado to streamline procedures for authorizing small hydropower projects in that state.

Action plan completed for risk-informed decision making

FERC reported it achieved its 2010 goal to develop an action plan for incorporating the use of risk-informed decision making in its dam safety program.

FERC proposes, by fiscal year 2014, that risk-informed decision making will be fully incorporated into the dam safety program. Through the high-level process of assessing each dam, FERC staff is to be able to identify high-risk dams that need more urgent attention.

“It will provide the capability to assess non-traditional failure modes, levelize risk across different loading conditions, focus inspections and surveillance on the specific potential failure modes and monitoring programs at the project, and guide remediation projects to provide an overall reduced level of risk at commission dams,” the report said.

FERC said it developed an action plan in 2010 to outline the work efforts required over the next four years to incorporate risk-informed decision making into dam safety. Commission staff drew on the experience of the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and New South Wales State, Australia, in risk-informed decision making.

In 2011, FERC is to make a portfolio risk assessment of the FERC dam inventory, followed by action in 2012 to determine that risk-informed decision making is consistent with the regulatory process.

Hydro program targets met or exceeded

Completed statistical tables of performance in the previous year, FY 2009, found FERC met or exceeded its targets in hydro programs, including:
o Integrated Licensing Process studies: 100 percent of ILP pre-filing study plan determinations were completed within 30 days of applicants’ filings;
o NEPA document issuance: 100 percent of National Environmental Policy Act documents were issued in Traditional Licensing Process and Alternative Licensing Process cases within 12 months of settlement filings and within 24 months of “ready for environmental analysis” dates;
o Annual high-hazard dam inspections: 90 percent of high- and significant-hazard potential dams inspected annually;
o High-hazard dam standards met: 90 percent of high- and significant-hazard potential dams either met all current structural safety standards or were undergoing investigation or remediation;
o Emergency action plans: 90 percent of qualifying dams complied with EAP requirements or were conducting follow-up actions on outstanding items.

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