Hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy in the world, yet is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be. When California is having a heat wave and needs electricity from out-of-state sources, massive hydro in Washington and Oregon delivers gigawatts of power reliably.
The Grand Coulee Dam in Washington is our biggest hydropower dam, with a whopping capacity of 6.8 GW, which makes it bigger than just about any coal, natural gas, or nuclear plant. It also does pumped hydro. Excess energy is used to pump water uphill into a storage area, where it can instantly be released to generate power.
Big dams do have issues. Sediment can build up. The sheer weight of them can create earthquakes. And of course they require flooding large areas, displacing people and habitat, and sloes can erode, causing environmental damge.
However, big hydro is a crucial producer of electricity. Small hydro can be too!
Two members of Congress from Washington, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) have re-introduced the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act to modernize hydropower rules and regulations.
Expand Hydropower Production: The bill affirms the role of hydropower as an essential renewable resource and updates Federal renewable purchase requirements to include hydropower.
Modernize Licensing Process: The bill designates the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency for the purposes of all Federal authorizations and for complying with any required State or local environmental reviews. The bill also improves coordination among permitting agencies by setting schedules, clarifying responsibilities, and establishing mechanisms to resolve disputes among licensing participants.
Promote Next-Generation Hydropower: The bill provides special licensing terms for small hydropower projects that are unlikely to jeopardize threatened or endangered species or critical habitat and expedites licensing for next-generation hydropower projects that utilize technologies that protect, mitigate, or enhance environmental resources.
Reduce Market Barriers: The bill requires a report to Congress containing recommendations to reduce barriers to the development of conventional, pumped-storage, conduit, and emerging hydropower technologies.
This bill should be supported.