Staff updates FERC on work to implement Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act

In a report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC staff has outlined actions to advance hydropower development under provisions of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act.

FERC staff reported to the commission June 18 on actions taken so far to implement the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act (H.R.267), which was signed into law by President Obama in 2013. Staff made a similar report last year. The commission also last year revised its regulations to conform to the act.

The HREA:

  • increases the maximum small hydro licensing exemption to 10 MW from 5 MW;
  • excludes from FERC jurisdiction qualifying projects under 5 MW that are on water conduits;
  • increases the maximum capacity for all conduit exemptions to 40 MW regardless of whether they are owned by municipalities (non-municipalities’ conduit exemptions had been restricted to a maximum of 15 MW);
  • provides FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits two years beyond their current three-year terms; and
  • requires FERC to examine a two-year licensing process for adding hydropower to non-powered dams and for closed-loop pumped-storage projects.

After nearly two years of implementing the act, FERC staff said the commission has received notices of intent to construct 58 qualifying small conduit hydropower projects that would be excluded from FERC jurisdiction under HREA. Of the 58, 43 have been qualified, eight were rejected because they did not meet HREA criteria, and seven were pending.

The commission also received 30 applications to extend terms of preliminary permits, of which 15 were granted, 14 were denied due to lack of diligence and one was pending. It also received one application for a (maximum 10-MW) small hydro licensing exemption for a project greater than the old maximum of 5 MW.

Staff also reported on results of FERC’s study of creating a two-year licensing process for adding hydropower to non-powered dams and for closed-loop pumped-storage projects. In January 2014, FERC invited developers to propose pilot projects to test the two-year licensing process.

In response, two pilot projects were filed. FERC staff said it rejected a proposal by Wild Flower Water LLC for a 750-MW Wild Flower Water Pumped-Storage (No. 13842) on Long Creek in Pushmataha County, Okla., because it did not meet criteria for pilot projects.

FERC last year approved a pilot project application for the 5-MW Kentucky River Lock and Dam No. 11 hydroelectric project in Kentucky. The project (P-14276) would be built at the Kentucky River Authority’s existing Lock and Dam 11 on the Kentucky River in Estill and Madison counties of Kentucky.

Hydro developer Free Flow Power filed a hydropower license application for Kentucky River Lock and Dam No. 11 in April.

“Commission staff requested additional environmental information on the application on June 12, 2015, and is currently reviewing engineering and safety information that was filed by the applicant on June 10, 2105,” the report said. “Once the application is complete, commission staff will issue a notice that it is ready for environmental analysis, soliciting stakeholder comments and recommendations, and prepare and issue an environmental document that evaluates the potential effects of the proposed project and recommends mitigation measures to be incorporated into any license issued. After a comment period on the environmental document, the commission will act on the application.”

FERC is to hold a final workshop to solicit comments on the effectiveness of the pilot project by Feb. 5, 2017, and submit a report on its findings to Congress by April 6, 2017.

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