Senator Murkowski introduces bills to boost hydropower generation

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the production of electricity from renewable hydropower and creating jobs in America’s energy sector. The "Hydropower Improvement Act" and the "Hydropower Renewable Energy Development Act" would boost federal support for hydropower projects.

The Hydropower Improvement Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash; Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash; and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, aims to increase the capacity of our nation’s hydropower sources to generate clean, renewable electricity by up to 75,000 megawatts.

"Hydropower is one of our greatest untapped resources for generating clean, renewable electricity,” Murkowski said.

The legislation establishes a competitive grants program and directs the Department of Energy to produce and implement a plan for the research, development and demonstration of increased hydropower capacity. The bill also gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority to streamline the permitting and review process for hydropower projects, and calls for studies on pumped-storage sites and the potential for development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities.

National Hydropower Association Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said: "NHA hopes that this bill also spurs additional consideration of hydropower in energy and climate policymaking. For example, Congress must provide continued long-term incentives for project development to create the stable investment environment developers need to expand America's hydropower resources. NHA strongly supports this effort to maximize hydropower’s contribution in meeting the country’s energy, environmental and economic goals. We salute Sen. Murkowski and the bill’s co-sponsors for their work and stand ready to work with Congress, the White House and other stakeholders to ensure that hydropower is supported in any energy and or climate bill that moves forward."

The Hydropower Renewable Energy Development Act classifies hydroelectric power generation as a “renewable” resource for federal program purposes. This bill provides parity treatment for hydro in the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and expands the types of hydro that can qualify for the PTC and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS) program.

“As the Senate turns its attention to energy legislation, I hope we can finally recognize the important contribution hydropower, as a truly renewable resource, can provide to our clean energy goals,” Murkowski said.

Hydropower is the largest source of renewable electricity in the United States, providing 7 percent of the nation’s power. In Alaska, hydro supplies 24 percent of the state’s electricity needs, and there are more than 200 additional sites that look promising for further hydropower development.

The U.S. Department of Energy, Department of the Interior and Army Corps of Engineers recently signed a memorandum of understanding to promote the development of hydropower.

Included in the MOU are the goals of identifying future sustainable hydropower generation sites, upgrading existing hydro projects and promoting new hydropower technologies while increasing cooperation among agencies. The MOU also calls for an increased emphasis on environmentally-friendly hydropower production practices.

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