HydroVision conference recap

Here’s a guest column from Bob Gallo writing in the Denver Business Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

While the groundwork to unlock hydropower’s full potential has been laid, there is much more left to be done. The manufacturers, developers, engineers, consultants, utility managers, and others who came to Denver last week certainly agreed.

Congress also agrees that hydropower should be an important part of the country’s energy future. Last year, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA) nearly made it across the finish line before running out of time as Congress adjourned for the year. EPMA enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and contained many hydropower provisions long sought by the industry, including designating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency for licensing hydropower projects. These changes would reduce unnecessary delays and uncertainty.

Though that effort ultimately fell short, hydropower remains the one energy source that can narrow the massive chasm between the two political parties on energy. Just six months into the current legislative session, no less than 33 bills focused on hydropower have been introduced. Nearly every week, committees in the House and Senate are holding hearings or markups on hydro legislation. Republicans and Democrats alike are seeing the value in hydropower and exploring more ways to get this valuable energy source online.

This is particularly true for the Colorado delegation. Earlier this year, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, introduced legislation that would encourage pumped storage hydropower at U.S. Bureau of Reclamation facilities. Pumped storage is the only proven large-scale energy storage technology and should be utilized to a much greater extent than it is currently.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, recently sponsored a bill that would reauthorize a Department of Energy Waterpower program that provides funding to retrofit dams and river conduits with electricity. There are over 80,000 dams in the country, and only 3 percent produce power. These non-powered dams hold great promise for additional generation.

Rep. DeGette has continued her leadership on hydropower, co-sponsoring new legislation earlier this month that would reduce the timeframe for approval of conduit hydro projects on Bureau facilities. The Colorado Small Hydro Association estimates that these types of canals and conduits could power an additional 65,000 Colorado homes…

The hydropower licensing process is one major roadblock to increasing our current installed hydropower capacity from 100 gigawatts to 150 gigawatts by 2050 – a goal set forth in the Department of Energy’s 2016 Hydropower Vision report. By utilizing some of those tens of thousands of untapped dams in the U.S., boosting pumped storage, and efficiency upgrades at existing facilities, hydropower can be a big part of our energy future. According to an earlier report, Colorado alone could produce 3.8 gigawatts of additional hydropower.

There’s an important side benefit to hydropower: infrastructure investment and job creation.

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