Legislation introduced to the U.S. Senate today could help remove regulatory obstacles and encourage research and development in the marine hydrokinetic energy sector of the hydroelectric power market.
The bill, introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is called the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013, or officially, S. 1419.
"Marine hydrokinetic power has tremendous potential to generate a substantial amount of clean, renewable energy in the United States and across the globe," Wyden said. "The bill Sen. Murkowski and I introduced today will help commercialize marine energy technologies by streamlining permitting and continuing research and development, bringing marine energy technology one step closer to supplying predictable base-load renewable power in the future."
The bill includes measures for renewable energy produced by waves, currents, ocean tides and free-flowing water in lakes and rivers.
"Seventy percent of the planet is covered with water, so the potential to generate clean, carbon-free electricity using marine and hydrokinetic energy is endless," Murkowski said. "Despite that potential though, there are currently no commercial marine hydrokinetic (MHK) projects operating in the United States."
The bill reauthorizes the Department of Energy's National Marine Renewable Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Centers.
The legislation also designates the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency to coordinate environmental reviews, while setting a goal of licensing pilot programs in one year or less.
"It's clear that advancing marine and hydrokinetic energy could be of immense benefit to the entire nation," Murkowski said.
The proposal is being lauded by the National Hydropower Association.
"NHA is pleased to support the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013," NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said. "The investment and regulatory efficiencies contained within this bill will be critical to move this segment of the industry to widespread commercialization."
S. 1419 is not the first hydropower bill Murkowski and Wyden have co-sponsored. Earlier this year, the duo reintroduced the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013, which seeks to decrease regulatory timeframes for small and in-conduit hydroelectric plants.
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