HydroVision International keynote: Hydro growth potential great

Hydropower has much growth potential in future U.S. power generation with the right policies in place, several speakers said during the keynote address at HydroVision International 2011 in Sacramento, Calif.

The show itself has seen record numbers with more than 3,000 attendees and 310 exhibitors representing 40 countries, making it the largest HydroVision International ever.

The U.S. has the potential to add 60,000 MW by 2025 as long as regulations are in place, said David Moller, president of the National Hydropower Association.

“Our mission is to double the amount of generation,” Moller said. “Hydropower is by far the largest renewable energy resource and it has great growth potential.”

During the roundtable discussion, all of the speakers noted that while California has an aggressive renewable portfolio standard and mandates in place to bring more renewable energy projects to the state, those mandates are nothing without a permanent climate change policy in place. Even then, the biggest need will be for pumped storage.

“California has 11 to 12 percent of renewables and the potential to reach 20 percent by the end of this year,” said James Tracy, the chief financial officer with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). “Now the goal is 33 percent, which is a big leap. Most of that will have to come from wind and solar.

“We have to start looking at pumped storage because of regulations,” Tracy said.

Tracy also said that if a set policy is put in place, there will be no need for the state’s mandates.

“If we get to a cap and trade market, in ten years we’ll look back on the mandates and they will fade to the background,” Tracy said.

Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources, said the state’s power future lies in more than just new builds.

“The future of California is in a diverse energy portfolio and we must consider integration, retrofits and some new development,” Cowin said.

Another obstacle that hydro faces is the relicensing process.

“The only thing harder to license out here is a nuclear plant,” SMUD Director Tracy said. “Expediting the licensing process will definitely help speed up development.”

PG&E Vice President Livingston said another concern was if there would be financing in place in the near future.

“Will tax incentives disappear in the next two years?” Livingston said.

In a sign that some companies are not letting a lack of regulations or financing stop them from using hydro, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture between automotive company BMW and SGL Carbon, recently built a manufacturing plant near Moses Lake to take advantage of hydropower. The plant will build carbon fibers to be used in BMW’s line of electric and battery vehicles to help make them lighter.

“Building the plant near a hydro plant was a condition we had in place,” said Joerg Pohlman, managing director of SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers GmbH & Co. “We wanted a reliable, long-term supply of power and competitive rates.”

The speakers also gave advice on how to best handle the relicensing process.

“Start early, don’t underestimate the amount of work that goes into it,” said CDWR director Cowin. “Take it on as a relationship builder with the entities you will be working with.”

PG&E’s Livingston agreed. “Learn from others and understand the various interests you are working with,” he said. “Be open and show all of your cards.

“Hydro is a gem in California and collaborating will put you further ahead,” Livingston said.

By Sharryn Dotson, online editor, Power Engineering

For more hydropower news and information, click here.

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