In the U.S., the idea of “energy independence” is moving beyond the realm of political rhetoric. After decades of indifference, citizens at long last are becoming supportive of making bona fide investments – even sacrifices – to become more self-sufficient in energy. Multiple initiatives advocating meaningful measures to re- duce reliance on imported energy are gaining ground.
Hydropower, both in its “conventional” form, and in new incarnations – including ocean, tidal, and kinetic waterpower – are well-positioned to play a large role in a future more reliant on renewable energy. After all, hydropower now provides more than 85% of North America’s renewable electricity and – as a recent assessment shows – hydro holds great potential for expansion.]
Recently, multiple initiatives and organizations have sprung up to stimulate greater public understanding of energy issues and to advocate more sustainable approaches to energy supply. The following are just a few:
– The “peak oil” movement – which, among other things, seeks to convince people that worldwide oil production is at or near its peak, and from which it must inevitably decline. [The work of noted geophysicist M. King Hubbert is often cited. In 1956, Hubbert accurately predicted that U.S. oil production would peak in 1970. At the time of his prediction, it was widely scoffed.]
– Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) is “committed to reducing America’s dependence on oil and improving U.S. energy security to bolster national security and strengthen the economy.” Its leadership is abundantly populated with Fortune 500 CEOs and notable former military leaders.
– Set America Free is a coalition “concerned about the security and economic implications of America’s growing dependence on foreign oil.”
– “25x’25” is one of many initiatives promoting greater reliance on renewable energy. 25x’25 arose from agricultural and forestry interests and has the goal of getting “25 percent of our energy from renewable resources like wind, solar, and biofuels by the year 2025.”
The crescendo of current concerns over climate change and global warming are strongly tied to the matter of energy security. In fact, the term “perfect storm” has been aptly applied to the convergence of issues – of climate, energy supply, and security – by analyst Daniel Klein. Klein argues persuasively that problems of climate, oil and gas supply, and national and economic security are all inextricably related, and that these problems all need to be considered together.]]
The sum of the foregoing is that there is now high, perhaps unprecedented, interest at all levels of society in doing things that make sense for conserving energy and enhancing renewable energy supply. These are just a few among a host of measures for addressing the perfect storm of climate/energy/security issues.
Hydropower, of course, remains among the most powerful options available for addressing needs vis-à -vis climate, energy, and security.
In spite of the real and potential capabilities of hydropower, we know that hydro can be overlooked. It is therefore incumbent upon those of us in the hydro industry to be vigilant – to do whatever we can – to ensure that others, from public citizens to policymakers, are aware of what hydro can contribute. Our actions can support the efforts of policymakers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors to take the steps necessary to undergird bona fide contributions of new secure, clean, and renewable supplies of hydroelectricity.
]Assessment of Waterpower Potential and Development Needs, EPRI, Palo Alto, Calif., Report No. 1014762 (2007).
]]A “Perfect Storm” for Energy, National Security, & Climate, presentation by Daniel E. Klein, Twenty-First Strategies, LLC, to the National Hydropower Association Annual Conference, Washington, D.C., March 2007.