Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 5892, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012. The bill, introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, is designed to implement a variety of measures promoting the production of electricity from small and conduit hydropower projects.

The bill opens with a series of Congressional findings regarding hydropower in the U.S.:
Congress finds that--

(1) the hydropower industry currently employs approximately 300,000 workers across the United States;

(2) hydropower is the largest source of clean, renewable electricity in the United States;

(3) as of the date of enactment of this Act, hydropower resources, including pumped storage facilities, provide--
(A) nearly 7 percent of the electricity generated in the United States; and
(B) approximately 100,000 megawatts of electric capacity in the United States;

(4) only 3 percent of the 80,000 dams in the United States generate electricity, so there is substantial potential for adding hydropower generation to nonpowered dams; and

(5) according to one study, by utilizing currently untapped resources, the United States could add approximately 60,000 megawatts of new hydropower capacity by 2025, which could create 700,000 new jobs over the next 13 years.
The bill goes on to implement a series of regulatory changes, including:
  • Increasing the maximum size of hydro projects eligible for exemption from licensing from 5 MW to 10 MW 
  • Promoting conduit hydropower – projects involving adding generation to existing pipes and canals
  • Allowing FERC to extend a 3-year preliminary permit by up to 2 more years if the permittee worked diligently and in good faith
  • Requiring FERC to investigate the development of a 2-year licensure process for developing hydropower at currently-unpowered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects, and if feasible test the shortened process on one or more pilot projects
  • Requiring the U.S. Department of Energy to study the potential of pumped storage to back up intermittent renewables and provide reliability, and to produce new hydropower from existing conduits
H.R. 5892 is now before the Senate for its consideration.

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