Speaking to hundreds gathered during HydroVision International 2013's opening session earlier this week, MWH Global chairman and CEO Alan Krause shared his insight and experience gained in developing hydroelectric power on an international scale.
HydroVision International 2013, taking place this week in Denver's Colorado Convention Center, is the world's largest event dedicated to the hydroelectric industry.
With an all-time record attendance and visitors representing six continents, HydroVision International reflects hydropower's growing role on the global stage.
"As I read the proceedings for this conference and saw almost 3,000 attendees from around the world, it made me very proud to be part of this industry," Krause said. "And as I read through some of the 450 papers and posters that will be presented, I realized the significance of the mind-blowing innovation that will be critical to our success."
With more than 10% of the world's population lacking access to clean drinking water and roughly 30% without energy, Krause said, hydropower's role worldwide is only becoming more significant with each passing day.
"The nexus between water and energy is exciting and growing," Krause said. "There's absolutely no reason why hydropower can't be the synapse between those two.
"Hydropower must play a significant role in the equation."
Speaking in terms of hydroelectric development in the United States, Krause emphasized the need for legislative and financial support that puts hydropower on an even playing field with other forms of renewable energy such as wind, solar and biomass.
"Fiscal policies put hydropower at an unfair advantage," Krause said. "There should be no tax incentives, in my opinion, for renewables that exclude hydropower. We simply can't afford that in this country any longer."
Though economic handicaps are part of the equation, Krause noted that America's current licensing process must also be reformed to assist hydroelectric development.
"The speed to permit must improve," he said. "Today, it's simply too slow and cumbersome. In short, U.S. governmental approval agencies must be much more of an enabler than a blocker."
A number of bills working their way through Congress could help spur domestic development, with all renewables -- including hydropower -- also receiving a boost from President Barack Obama's recently released climate change memorandum also being of value to the industry.
With hydropower offering a number of ancillary bonuses such as grid stability, water storage and energy absorption, Krause said the overall value of hydropower must be emphasized.
"The cost of implementing these standards should only improve the cost-effectiveness of hydro," Krause said. "Such benefits need to be included in the value equation for hydropower, or it puts hydropower at a disadvantage."
Krause also discussed international issues facing the hydroelectric industry during his keynote, saying competition amongst foreign developers has never been higher.
And though he noted that such competition is good for the industry as a whole, Krause cautioned that social accountability and responsible design are essential considerations in making hydroelectric development a strong consideration worldwide.
"In some markets, inexperienced players are entering the hydropower market without an understanding for what it takes to develop hydropower projects and the unique characteristics that comes with hydropower," Krause said. "We actually see this as a danger to the industry, and it will only take one or two catastrophic events or failures to give the hydropower market a very, very bad black eye."
Still, Krause said, the global outlook for hydropower is positive with both the World Bank and other international lending agencies recognizing its benefits.
"There's no better time for the hydropower industry than right now," Krause said. "Let's not forget that somewhere between 16% and 19% of the world's electricity comes from hydropower. That's more than nuclear.
"The levelized cost per kWh makes hydropower one of the most -- if not the most -- attractive energy sources in the world, even compared to wind with subsidies, and natural gas."
Krause said advocacy by the industry itself must remain strong, however, if hydropower is to remain competitive in international discussion.
"I am very bullish about our industry," Krause said. "The enthusiasm in this room and this conference must be transferred to the political agenda of renewable and sustainable energy.
"If we are united and passionate in that vision, our future will be bright."