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BREAKING NEWS: Hydro Currents

U.S. House again passes renewables bill

The House again Feb. 27 passed legislation to extend expiring production tax credits and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds for renewable energy projects including some hydropower. The House passed the bill, 236-182, after rejecting a motion to remove language that would repeal $18 billion in tax incentives for oil company investments. Like previous versions of the legislation this year, it was expected to face a filibuster threat from Senate Republicans opposed to the oil company tax increase. The White House also promised President Bush would veto the measure due to the oil company tax hike intended to finance the renewables incentives. The measure is similar to one that supporters failed to attach to an earlier economic stimulus bill.

Bush budget allots $3 million for hydro R&D

President Bush’s $3.11 trillion budget proposal for the next fiscal year includes $3 million for hydropower research and development in a $25 billion spending plan for the Department of Energy (DOE). The amount proposed for hydro in fiscal year 2009 is less than the $10 million Congress approved to revive DOE’s “water power” program for fiscal year 2008, which ends Sept. 30. However, it is $3 million more than Bush’s FY 2008 budget, which included nothing for hydro R&D. DOE’s Water Power Energy R&D program, previously known as the Hydropower Program, is conducting research on conventional hydro and innovative technologies for ocean, tidal, and in-stream generation. Congress appropriated $495,000 for FY 2006 to complete closeout of the DOE program, which was zero-funded in FY 2007. It appropriated $4.9 million in FY 2004 and again in FY 2005.

Budget supports Reclamation, Corps

The Bureau of Reclamation says President Bush’s fiscal year 2009 budget seeks more than $396 million for operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation at Reclamation facilities. It includes $91.3 million for the agency’s Dam Safety Program to continue risk management and reduction at high- and significant-hazard dams. Modifications to 199-MW Folsom Dam on California’s American River continue to be a major focus. The budget also includes $4.741 billion in new funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program, and an additional $5.761 billion in an emergency request to help protect New Orleans from storm surges, for a total request of more than $10.5 billion. The budget includes $57 million for seepage control at 270-MW Wolf Creek Dam near Jamestown, Ky.

BC Hydro to upgrade hydro, infrastructure

BC Hydro plans to spend C$3.4 billion (US$3.44 billion) over two years to renew and upgrade its hydroelectric projects and infrastructure in British Columbia. The province-owned utility included the capital program in a rate application for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, filed with the British Columbia Utilities Commission. The application seeks a general rate increase of 6.56 percent in the first year and another 8.21 percent in the second year. BC Hydro said over the next two years it plans to refurbish infrastructure at: 700-MW Peace Canyon, 2,730-MW Gordon M. Shrum, 1,668-MW Mica, 24-MW Aberfeldie, Coquitlam Dam, and 1,980-MW Revelstoke. It also plans transmission and distribution projects.

Congressman: Include hydro in warming debate

A congressman from the Pacific Northwest is urging that hydro projects be preserved and encouraged to help stem global warming. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., addressed the Northwest Hydroelectric Association annual conference Feb. 20, saying politics and hypocrisy underlie the climate change debate, especially in the treatment of hydropower and dam breaching by many supporters of action to stem climate change. “Our region needs more people at the table who understand that annual hydropower output is equivalent to the energy produced from 200 million barrels of oil, that hydropower is more efficient than any other form of electricity generation, and that hydropower offsets more carbon emissions than all other renewable energy sources combined,” Hastings said.

Eighteen hydros win renewables bonding

The Internal Revenue Service announced 18 hydro projects are among 312 projects eligible for more than $400 million in tax-credit bond allocations under the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREB) program. The 18 hydro projects won

about $40 million in CREB authority. The largest single identified hydro recipient is co-op supplier American Municipal Power-Ohio Inc. with four Ohio River projects and bonding totaling $16 million. The National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. was allocated bonding on behalf of the two other co-op hydro projects: Livingston, Texas, $10.2 million; and Afton, Wyo., $5.73 million. Local government borrowers received bonding approval for 12 hydro facilities. However, four did not sign public disclosure consents. The other eight are Baker County, Ore., $1 million; Norway, Mich., $1 million; Rock Island, Ill., $700,000; Merced Irrigation District, Calif., $1.34 million; Pend Oreille Public Utility District, Wash., $1.34 million; Portland Water District, Maine, $265,000; and Southern Nevada Water Authority, Nev., two projects of $1.2 million each.

Renewables conference acknowledges hydro

Delegates to a global conference on renewable energy acknowledged the importance of hydropower – both existing and potential – in the world’s mix of renewable energy resources. About 6,000 delegates and more than 100 official country delegations took part in the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) March 4-6 in Washington. While much attention focused on newer renewables technologies, Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates of the United States, predicted conventional emissions-free technologies – hydroelectric and nuclear generation – would account for almost half of the clean power additions by 2030. The National Hydropower Association (NHA) noted the U.S. has the potential to more than double its hydro capacity by using new technologies that improve efficiency at existing facilities, add generation to non-powered dams, and harness waves, tides, and other sources of moving water. The International Hydropower Association (IHA) Sustainability Assessment Protocol was the focus of a satellite event sponsored by IHA, NHA, the Canadian Hydropower Association, WWF International, and the Nature Conservancy. The session recruited supporters to promote the protocol as a global standard to guide hydro sector activities.

Court grants more time for Columbia ‘biop’

A U.S. judge granted the Justice Department a 45-day extension to complete a final biological opinion on operating the Columbia River Basin hydropower system in ways that protect and recover threatened salmon. The new due date is May 5. The department asked District Judge James Redden to extend his March 18 deadline for NOAA Fisheries to complete the “biop.” A draft biop, released in October, found the hydro system could be operated to protect and recover salmon. NOAA Fisheries said the biop spells out “aggressive and comprehensive” hydro system improvements, hatchery reforms, and habitat enhancements. The dam removal lobby opposed the draft because, like four ill-fated biops before it, the opinion did not consider removing four U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Snake River totaling 3,033 MW.

Manitoba-Minnesota deal could spur new hydro

Canada’s Manitoba Hydro and U.S. utility Minnesota Power have signed a preliminary power supply agreement that could spur construction of new multi-billion-dollar hydro projects in Canada and a cross-border transmission line. The utilities announced a two-stage plan in which Manitoba Hydro is to export carbon-free surplus electricity to Minnesota starting in 2008. The second stage would be a 15-year purchase of 250 MW by Minnesota Power, starting about 2020. Manitoba Hydro said it would build either US$3.5 billion 620-MW Keeyask (Gull) or US$5 billion 1,250-MW Conawapa in northern Manitoba. The firms have one year to complete talks.

Test at Glen Canyon shifts Grand Canyon sands

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne opened jet tubes March 5 at 1,312-MW Glen Canyon Dam, flushing 41,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) of Colorado River water into the Grand Canyon. The 60-hour high-flow test was expected to redistribute sand, providing sandbars in the canyon for wildlife habitat, camping beaches, and sand to protect archaeological sites. High flows also create backwaters used by young fish, particularly the endangered humpback chub. Since 1996, releases from Glen Canyon have ranged from 8,000 to 20,000 cfs. Monthly releases later in the year will be adjusted downward to account for water released during the experiment.

Lawmaker promotes clean energy economy

The sponsor of the New Apollo Energy Act, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., says there is a role for hydro and ocean technologies in a “clean energy economy” he is promoting to combat global warming. Meeting with hydro leaders, Inslee encouraged incentives for energy sources that produce few or no carbon emissions. He reiterated his support for long-term extension of production tax credits and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds for renewables projects including hydropower. Inslee also seeks to broaden incentives to include wave, tidal, and hydrokinetic technologies. The proposed New Apollo Energy Act promotes the Apollo Alliance, a movement to invest $313 billion over ten years in technologies to reduce reliance on oil, slash carbon emissions, and create a clean energy economy.


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