Perspectives: No More Mr. Nice Guy

As we launch into 2010 and leave 2009 behind, it’s worthwhile to review some of the more memorable statements about hydropower during the past year.

My personal favorite was from Philip Moeller, a commissioner with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), during the opening session of the Waterpower XVI event, the world’s largest gathering of hydropower experts in 2009. “No more ‘Mr. Nice Guy,'” Moeller told the crowd.

With that statement, Commissioner Moeller challenged the hydropower industry to stand up for itself … to take credit where credit’s due … and to stop assuming policy- and decision-makers understand the benefits the hydro resource offers.

“I think this is the most exciting but also (the most) critical time in energy policy in our lifetime,” Moeller said. “If hydropower isn’t recognized, we’ll regret it for decades. The time is now.”

Commissioner Moeller is right.

Now, no one is advocating hydro owners, developers, and lobbyists put on black hats and bully or bribe decision makers, regulators, or resource agencies. But, it is absolutely essential to stand up for hydro in Congress, in the courts, and in your local coffee shop … and not politely stand aside during debates on carbon policy and other energy matters.

During 2009, several public officials made significant statements about the value of hydropower. Examples include:

— U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu: Hydropower is “astoundingly efficient. It’s an incredible opportunity and it’s actually the lowest cost clean energy option. We will be pushing this. We’re not talking about a lot of large, new reservoirs. Just work with what we have and it’s a massive amount of power.”

— Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: “I think the future of hydro is unlimited. It’s time to invest in renewable energy resources that generate electricity in this country and that provide jobs for Americans. Hydropower presents elected officials across the country an opportunity to bring thousands of long-term, family wage jobs to our states. Given the water ways in this country, we are sorely under using one of the cleanest sources of energy on the Earth.”

— Ontario, Canada, Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield: The Green Energy Act, which includes a feed-in-tariff program with price supports for hydropower, “is helping us meet our commitment to eliminate coal-fired power by 2014. It is the single largest climate change initiative in Canada. The act is contributing to changes in our whole approach to energy and is a crucial component of our plan to become a leading green economy in North America.”

— U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski: “Pumped hydro has been the energy storage workhorse, providing the most storage capacity that can deliver power during peak demands. It often doesn’t get the credit it deserves.”

— U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers: “A tremendous opportunity exists with hydropower. … we could double the capacity of hydropower in this country without building a single new dam.”

As you can see, these public officials … representing a variety of political parties and geographic regions … understand hydro’s contribution toward energy security, job growth, and a clean, renewable energy future.

In 2010, let’s build on these public statements from 2009. Let’s not apologize and sit quietly in the wings. Instead, let’s stand up for hydro … firmly, loudly, and consistently. No more “Mr. Nice Guy.”

Marla Barnes
Publisher and Chief Editor

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