Hydropower relicensing surge expected

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hydropower industry experts are gathering near Worcester, Massachusetts, this week for a conference on hydropower re-licensing. Organized by EUCI and hosted by Alden Research Laboratory, the March 18-19 Hydropower Re-Licensing Conference features speakers from federal and state regulatory agencies, owners of hydropower projects, and consultants.

The power of falling water.

Hydropower currently accounts for about two-thirds of all renewable electricity generated in the U.S, with room for growth primarily by expansion of existing facilities at existing storage dams. Most hydropower projects fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, receiving either a license or an exemption pursuant to the Federal Power Act.

Before most existing projects may expand, they need to secure a license amendment from the FERC allowing changes to the project. Planned and upcoming project expansions will drive significant relicensing in the coming years.

The age of the nation's existing hydropower projects will also drive additional relicensing activity in the near term. Of roughly 2,000 existing hydropower licenses and exemptions issued by the FERC, nearly one-quarter will expire within the next 15 years. Since dams have relatively high construction and permitting costs and relatively long useful lives, since demand for renewable electricity remains relatively high, since most dams were built decades ago and since existing licenses typically run for 30 to 50 years, most of these existing dams will likely apply for new licenses before the terms of their existing licenses expire.

For these reasons, expect to see significant re-licensing activity around hydropower projects in the next decade.

Following this week's conference, EUCI will host a workshop on financing new and existing small hydropower projects. A panel of presenters, including Jon Petrillo of Gravity Renewables, Dana Hall of the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, my colleague Peter Brown of Preti Flaherty, and me, will engage with attendees on the ever-important question of how to finance hydropower projects.

For more information about the event, contact me at 207-791-3000 or tgriset@preti.com.

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