Hydropower Continues to Receive Strong Support in US Congress

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Kevin Frank, president and CEO of Voith Hydro, praised the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, which was passed by the House of Representatives in February by a unanimous 422-0 vote.

Sponsored by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act will boost small hydro and conduit projects in the U.S. and help reduce the time line for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC's) licensing process for nonpowered dams and closed-loop pumped-storage projects. The legislation passed through the House in 2012 year by a unanimous margin and is the first energy legislation considered by the House in 113th Congress.

"Congress continues to show its strong bipartisan support for hydropower with House passage of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, and I applaud Reps. McMorris Rodgers and DeGette for their continued leadership on this legislation," Frank said. "This bill takes direct aim at two of the biggest goals for the hydropower industry as a whole: streamlining the regulatory process and expanding pumped storage and small hydro across the United States. By making these small but significant changes, we can create thousands of jobs across the country while expanding our use of clean and renewable energy, one of President Obama's top second-term goals.”

Hydropower also finds itself in a strong position in the Senate as the Energy and Natural Resources Committee is led by hydropower advocates in Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Murkowski's Hydropower Improvement Act passed out of the committee. Both Murkowski and Wyden have cited hydropower as a focus area for the committee in the 113th Congress. In addition, Murkowski outlines many proposals included in the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act in her recently released energy blueprint, “Energy 20/20.”

Specifically, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act will:

·         Increase the small hydro exemption to 10 MW (currently at 5 MW);

·         Remove conduit projects less than 5 MW from FERC jurisdiction and increase the conduit exemption to 40 MW for all projects;

·         Provide FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits; and

·         Require FERC to examine a two-year licensing process for nonpowered dams and closed-loop pump storage.

The president in his second inaugural address said the path to sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.

“But Americans cannot resist this transition,” he said. “We must lead it."

Expanded use of hydropower can be a key component of increasing the use of sustainable energy sources. With the right policies in place, the U.S. can create 1.4 million cumulative jobs by 2025 by maximizing these nonpowered dams and existing hydropower infrastructure and developing pumped storage and new marine and hydrokinetic technologies, adding 60,000 MW of clean and renewable electricity to the nation's electric grid.

Hydropower is the largest, oldest and most reliable form of renewable energy generation. Worldwide, it contributes to stable power supplies and economic and social development in industrial countries and emerging markets. Hydropower also contributes to climate-protecting energy production.  

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