Perspectives: Looking at Hydro with Two Faces

The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus. He is known as the god of gates, doors and beginnings. Janus is usually depicted with two faces – one looking to the past and one looking to the future.

The image of Janus looking simultaneously in two directions is a good one as we enter a new year. January is a good time to reflect on the past … and to appreciate all that’s transpired. It’s also a good time to look forward … to anticipate what lies ahead. So, indulge me for a moment as I look at hydro with two faces.

Reflecting on the past

2011 was a year of great progress for the hydropower market in North America. Despite challenging economic times and indecisiveness by politicians, hydro has made significant gains.

Two examples.

Example 1: In late December 2011, the U.S. Congress passed and President Obama signed a bill providing $59 million for fiscal year 2012 for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Research and Development Program.

This allocation is $20 million more than the previous fiscal year. Hydro is the only renewable electricity source to receive a funding increase.

The allocation is to be used for research, development and demonstration work in both conventional and marine and hydrokinetic research.

Example 2: In the Canadian province of British Columbia, construction of the 50-MW Kwoiek Creek project got under way in 2011 … after 18 years of planning, preparation and obtaining more than 50 approvals, permits and licenses from 14 government regulatory bodies. Kwoiek Creek is being jointly developed by the Kanaka Bar Indian Band and private power producer Innergex.

According to the advocacy group B.C. Citizens for Green Energy, the $180 million investment being made to develop the project represents a significant economic boost for a region of the province that’s been hurting for decades.

Kwoiek Creek is just one example of numerous new hydro projects being developed throughout North America that are creating jobs and generating carbon-neutral electricity.

What lies ahead?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Outlook 2011, renewables are the fastest-growing source of electricity generation worldwide. Total generation from renewables is expected to increase by 3.1% annually, and the renewable share of world electricity generation will grow from 19% in 2008 to 23% in 2035.

More than 80% of the increase will be in hydroelectric power and wind power. Of the 4.6 trillion kWh of new renewable generation added between now and 2035, 55% will be attributed to hydro. The majority (85%) of this growth will occur in the non-OECD* countries.

One exception is Canada, an OECD country, where hydroelectric power is, and is expected to remain, the primary source of electricity. According to the report, new hydro capacity will account for 25,563 MW of renewable capacity added in Canada between 2008 and 2035. And, in both the U.S. and Canada, through 2035, the report shows hydroelectric power as the leading renewable electricity source.

What does this outlook mean for the North American hydroelectric market?

– Great opportunities exist in Canada to build new hydro. A new study commissioned by the Canadian Hydropower Association indicates hydropower investment could produce more than 1 million Canadian jobs over the next 20 years from construction activities.

– For North American companies with development expertise and technologies to export, look to Brazil, India, China and nations in Southeast Asia as hot spots for expanding your business.

– Hydro is here to stay! Hydro is, and will continue to be, the leading renewable energy source in North America and throughout the world.

Marla J. Barnes
Publisher and Chief Editor

* Non-OECD (or “developing”) countries are those that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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