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EPRI report confirms hydroelectric power's value to U.S. transmission grids

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A paper published by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) seeks to quantify the value of hydroelectric power ancillary services for electric grids.

The report -- titled "Quantifying the Value of Hydropower in the Electric Grid" -- draws from a multi-year U.S. Department of Energy study that focused on defining the worth of both conventional and pumped-storage hydropower projects.

"The objective of this project is to use industry-proven analyses and modeling methods and tools at unit, plant, system, and regional/national levels over multiple time scales to quantify and maximize the benefits provided by conventional and pumped-storage hydroelectric projects to transmission grids," EPRI said.

With more utilities and power providers relying on renewable sources like wind and solar generation, hydroelectric projects are becoming an increasingly more important factor in balancing and demand response.

Hydropower development has stalled, however, due to a lack of financial incentives for permitting and construction costs, and as EPRI notes, capturing the value of what hydroelectric facilities can bring transmission grids has been difficult.

"From this project, utilities with existing or planned hydropower will gain understanding of the costs and benefits for providing ancillary services under different future scenarios including high levels of renewable integration," EPRI said. "Results will also be useful in formulating policies and regulations, for developing fair markets, and for investing in energy and transmission infrastructure to ensure energy security and to address climate change concerns."

Using the Department of Energy study, EPRI was able to identify 10 ways to increase and better capture hydropower's value in three categories, including operations, technology and markets.

Using these factors, EPRI concluded that hydropower across the United States contributes significantly to grid operation in terms of energy, capacity and ancillary services, and that additional research might further increase its value.

For a full analysis of the EPRI report, see the April 2013 issue of Hydro Review magazine.

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