While hydropower has enjoyed a renaissance through the past decade, the industry still is not doing enough to make itself a known commodity, several industry leaders said during the HydroVision International 2012 opening session Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking during the conference's keynote address, Alstom's Pierre Gauthier told a crowd of more than 2,000 that all those associated with all hydroelectric production must continue bringing the industry to the forefront of the global consciousness.
Gauthier, President and Chief Executive Officer of Alstom's U.S. and Canada branches, specifically highlighted North American hydro production by urging industry members to speak out about what he calls the "silent renewable".
With attitudes toward hydropower becoming increasingly more favorable, its potential and advantages must be considered when discussing America's energy portfolio, Gauthier said.
"Now is the time when we should look to hydro to help fill the void," Gauthier said. "We can no longer afford to have hydro's voice go unheard in the energy debate.
"It is time for us to put hydro back on the agenda by leveling the playing field and building solid support for hydro as the backbone of our renewable energy future."
Citing data collected from search engine Google.com, Gauthier noted that for every one query about hydropower production, more than 10 were made for wind and solar production between 2004-2012.
"As hydro slips further and further from the public's conscious, people have lost interest in learning about the technology and the important contribution it already makes to America's energy portfolio," Gauthier said.
Gauthier's sentiments were echoed by fellow keynote speakers Marc Gerken, President and CEO of American Municipal Power (AMP), and Paul W. Thompson, Senior Vice-President of Energy Services for Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities Energy LLC.
"We've got to get our message out there," Gerken said. "We're getting better, but every one of us has a part in this."
The speakers noted the unanimous passage of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act this past week as a clear indication that hydroelectricity is gaining traction in the U.S., but said both policy makers and the general public still need a better understanding of the industry for it to fully realize its potential.
"How is it possible that small hydro is considered renewable, but not large hydro?" Gauthier asked. "The resource is, by definition, renewable."
Overcoming such inconsistencies is part of the solution, Thompson said, as is understanding hydro's role in the energy mix.
Though Thompson's company, LG&E, generates the majority of its power with coal, he said the utility considers its 80-MW Ohio Falls hydro plant an integral part of its existing portfolio and its future.
"Hydropower makes sense," Thompson said.
The keynote session also featured remarks from Jacob Irving, President of the Canadian Hydropower Association; Tracy Lane, Program Director of the International Hydropower Association; David Moller, President of the National Hydropower Association; and Col. Luke Leonard of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Leonard, who commands the Corps' Louisville District, also helped unveil PennWell's Wall of Honor, which recognizes current and former members of the armed services.
HydroVision International 2012 continues through Friday at Louisville's Kentucky International Convention Center.
Continue checking HydroWorld.com throughout the week for additional news and updates from the event.