Commissioner Philip Moeller, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, urged America’s hydropower industry to get front and center in the debate over comprehensive energy policy on Capitol Hill.
“No more Mr. Nice Guy,” Moeller told participants July 28, 2009, at Waterpower XVI, the world’s largest gathering of hydropower experts in 2009. “It’s up to us to make sure the public recognizes what hydropower has to offer.”
As Congress considers legislation to reduce carbon emissions and increase the use of renewable energy, hydropower could play a starring role in emerging energy policies, Commissioner Moeller said.
“What better industry than hydropower is there to address these needs,” he said. “The world won’t get to where it wants to go on carbon emissions without hydropower.”
Just 3 percent of dams in the U.S. feature a power generating component; the industry estimates it can boost capacity by 30 percent at existing dams in the United States.
“We’re seeing national and international debate on where we want to take energy policy,” Moeller said. “It’s a great opportunity, but there is also potential for things to go either way as this debate develops.”
The U.S. House has endorsed a $33.3 billion energy and water appropriations bill that includes spending $40 million on the Department of Energy's hydropower research and development program (HydroWorld 7/20/09). The measure will be considered by the Senate, whose own Appropriations Committee endorsed $60 million for hydropower research and development (HydroWorld 7/10/09).
“I think this is the most exciting but also critical time in energy policy in our lifetime,” Moeller said. “If hydropower isn’t recognized, we’ll regret it for decades. The time is now.”
Despite rapid growth in renewable power, renewable energy still represents a fraction of the world’s energy consumption, a fact that won’t change anytime soon, said keynote speaker Michael Toman, an economist and adjunct faculty member at John Hopkins University. Oil, coal and natural gas will continue to be the dominant sources of energy for several decades, he said.
“Renewables are growing very fast, but they’re growing from a very small base,” Toman said.
Organized by PennWell Corp., the four-day event runs through July 30, 2009, featuring more than 250 speakers and 288 companies and organizations showcasing their products and services in the exhibit hall. More than 2,000 hydro professionals from more than 40 countries are participating in the event, held at the Spokane, Wash., Convention Center.