Under the Federal Power Act, the Commission is responsible for licensing most non-federal hydropower development in the U.S. Concerned over the duration and expense of the regulatory process, Congress enacted the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, section 6 of which directed the Commission to investigate the feasibility of a two-year licensing process, develop criteria for identifying projects that may be appropriate for the process, and develop and implement pilot projects to test the process.
After a January 6, 2014 solicitation for pilot projects, the Commission selected Free Flow Power Project 92, LLC's (FFP) proposed 5-megawatt project at the Kentucky River Authority's existing Lock & Dam No. 11 on the Kentucky River. The January notice set minimum criteria and a process plan for projects that may be appropriate for licensing within a two-year process, including:
- The project must cause little to no change to existing surface and groundwater flows and uses;
- The project must not adversely affect federally listed threatened and endangered species;
- If the project is proposed to be located at or use a federal dam, the request to use the two-year process must include a letter from the dam owner saying the plan is feasible;
- If the project would use any public park, recreation area, or wildlife refuge, the request to use the two-year process must include a letter from the managing entity giving its approval to use the site; and
- For a closed-loop pumped storage project, the project must not be continuously connected to a naturally flowing water feature.