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NHA: Bingaman clean energy standard misrepresents hydro potential

WASHINGTON 12/7/11 (PennWell) -- The National Hydropower Association has complained that a proposed clean energy standard by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman fails to reflect accurately hydropower's growth potential.

Bingaman, D-N.M., announced Nov. 30 that the Energy Information Administration issued an analysis of the clean energy standard he submitted to the agency in August, including modeling scenarios requested by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman. The analysis examines eight CES policy options and discusses the effects of each on the deployment of clean generation technologies, electricity and natural gas prices, and greenhouse gas emissions.

A clean energy standard is a policy that requires electricity retailers to supply a specified percentage of their electricity from qualifying "clean" energy sources. Under a CES, electric generators would be granted clean energy credits for every megawatt-hour of electricity they produce using qualifying clean energy sources.

The concept has evolved from the original concept of renewable energy, or renewables portfolio, standards to advance "clean" energy, which, depending on the definition, can include fossil fuels. Bingaman's proposal includes the provision of partial credits to gas and coal plants that emit less carbon dioxide than a new supercritical coal plant.

Under Bingaman's proposal, full credits would go to all generation from new and existing wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, municipal solid waste, and landfill gas projects. Incremental hydropower and nuclear generation from capacity uprates at existing plants and from new plants would earn full credits. Partial credits would go to gas and coal plants, including some existing plants, that produce fewer emissions than the benchmark coal plant.

Generation from existing hydroelectric and nuclear plants would not receive credits. However, generation from such plants would reduce their owners' baseline generation figure when their required percentage of clean energy is calculated. That means the owners of existing hydro and nuclear plants would not have to acquire as much additional clean energy.

"The EIA has provided us with a thorough and thoughtful analysis of key policy options for a clean energy standard," Bingaman said. "The insight that EIA experts have included in this report will help inform the CES legislation I am developing and planning to introduce early next year."

NHA discouraged by treatment of hydropower

NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said the hydro industry group appreciates Bingaman's leadership on clean and renewable energy issues but is discouraged by the overall treatment of hydropower in the scenario he submitted to EIA.

"Today's Energy Information Administration analysis of Sen. Bingaman's clean energy standard clearly shows the central role that hydropower must play in any federal energy policy," Church Ciocci said. "NHA strongly believes that in order to achieve the president's goal of providing 80 percent clean and renewable energy by 2025, new and existing hydropower resources must be recognized under any federal standard on par with other new and existing renewable technologies."

Bingaman was urged to reconsider his proposal.

"We are concerned with some of EIA's findings and assumptions in the analysis, particularly the failure to accurately represent hydropower's growth potential," the NHA official said. "With the right policies in place, hydropower can double capacity.

"The analysis released today shows little to no growth in the hydropower industry, and does not accurately reflect a growing and dynamic hydropower sector with over 80,000 MW of capacity before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," she added.

Church Ciocci said hydropower is the nation's most available, reliable, and affordable renewable energy source with the potential to support more than a million jobs in coming years.

The EIA analysis of Bingaman's clean energy standard may be obtained from the agency's Internet site under http://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/ces_bingaman.


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