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U.S. stimulus bill seen advancing hydro

The U.S. hydropower industry says renewable energy provisions in the new $787 billion economic stimulus law can help bring 90,000 MW of new hydro on line by 2030. President Obama signed the package into law Feb. 17, offering financial incentives for the development of some hydropower and other renewable energy. The National Hydropower Association (NHA) said incentives contained in the law could double current hydropower capacity and bring 90,000 MW on line. “The act provides the stability investors and developers need to move forward on projects that increase our waterpower generation,” NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said.

Stimulus holds credits, energy bonds

The economic stimulus package extends the in-service date through 2013 for renewable energy projects to be eligible for production tax credits. Among eligible renewables are incremental hydropower from additions to existing hydro plants, hydropower development at existing non-powered dams, small irrigation hydro, ocean energy, and in-stream hydrokinetic technologies. The measure is expected to cost $13.1 billion over ten years. The law also allows new renewables projects to claim a 30 percent investment tax credit in lieu of a production tax credit. That is expected to cost $285 million over ten years. The bill authorizes $1.6 billion of new Clean Renewable Energy Bonds for renewable electricity facilities, including hydro and ocean sources. The bonds are offered to public power entities that are not eligible for tax credits. Hydro equipment manufacturers could be eligible for a new 30 percent investment tax credit for facilities manufacturing “advanced energy property.” Other provisions include a 20 percent tax credit for renewable energy research, and Treasury Department energy grants that could be used in lieu of production tax credits.

Spending includes infrastructure funds

The stimulus bill provides $120 billion for investments in infrastructure and science, and $37.5 billion for investments in energy that include another $30 billion for infrastructure. Included are rehabilitation and upkeep of government water resources and hydropower facilities. Investments include: $2.75 billion for the Department of Homeland Security; $4.6 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation. Investments in energy include $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, and $6 billion for new loan guarantees for renewables and transmission projects.

Ontario act to advance hydro

Ontario’s Energy minister presented the Legislature a proposed Green Energy Act intended to expand the province’s use of renewable energy sources including hydropower. Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman said Feb. 23 that the act would streamline the power project approval process. The regulatory revision is to make it easier and quicker for developers to supply “green” energy to the grid. The bill would create renewable energy “feed-in” tariffs setting guaranteed prices as an incentive.

Energy secretary backs pumped storage

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is calling for increased investment in pumped-storage hydropower to support an expanded U.S. transmission grid that will carry a greater share of intermittent wind and solar power. Participating in a clean energy economy forum Feb. 23, Chu emphasized the need to develop a more sophisticated smart grid to carry renewable energy from remote sites to load centers. He said that would require an increased ability to store electricity, a function currently performed by pumped-storage hydropower. “We should start to invest heavily in pumped hydro storage,” Chu said. The National Hydropower Association hailed the remark and called for investment tax credits or other incentives to encourage development of pumped storage. (See “Realizing New Pumped Storage Potential,” Page 28.) Another participant in the forum, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would introduce a bill to develop a grid that can deliver remote renewables to load centers.

Voith Siemens becomes Voith Hydro

Beginning April 1, the nine-year-old joint venture Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation becomes simply Voith Hydro. Parent Voith AG said the partnership between the hydro turbine and generator manufacturers remains the same, with Voith holding 65 percent and Siemens 35 percent of the shares in Voith Hydro. “Under its new name, the company will continue to stand for proven expertise, excellent research and development, technical reliability, and innovations that gained worldwide recognition,” Voith Hydro Chairman Roland Muench said. Voith Hydro’s order volume increased by more than 25 percent over the past year to almost 1.4 billion euros (US$1.78 billion), the official said.

Report: Abitibi to sell to Brookfield

A Canadian newspaper reported papermaker AbitibiBowater Inc. is prepared to sell its Ontario-based hydroelectric assets totaling 139 MW to Brookfield Asset Management Inc. AbitibiBowater said in December it had reached a preliminary agreement to sell its 75 percent stake in hydro asset owner ACH Limited Partnership to an unnamed buyer for C$540 million (US$443 million). Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported Feb. 2 that Brookfield, whose units have numerous hydro projects in Canada and the United States, is to be the buyer. A Brookfield spokesman said the company “does not comment on speculation.” Brookfield heightened that speculation when its Brookfield Renewable Power unit borrowed C$300 million (US$241.8 million), with the proceeds to be used to repay debt and for general purposes.

Waterpower XVI website launched

PennWell launched a comprehensive Internet site for Waterpower XVI, providing information and registration opportunities for the hydropower industry conference and exhibition, July 27-30 in Spokane, Wash. The website, www.waterpowerconference.com, offers quick links to the conference program, including listings of technical papers and agendas of briefings, symposia, and roundtables. The site also offers links to delegate registration and to reservation of Exhibition Hall space. The Waterpower conference provides learning opportunities for hydro professionals of every level, from novices seeking training to veterans seeking to update their specific areas of interest. More than 1,400 delegates from 40 countries attended Waterpower XV in 2007. The Internet site also lists suppliers of hydro equipment and services who have reserved space for the exhibition. More than 250 exhibitors already have signed up for the event at the Spokane Convention Center. Hydro Review magazine is the flagship media sponsor of Waterpower XVI, which is owned and produced by PennWell.

Andritz brings units under one name

Austria-based technology group Andritz united its far-flung hydropower equipment units under a single name, Andritz Hydro. The action brings the former GE Hydro and VA Tech Hydro operations under a single name, subsequent to the acquisition of GE Energy’s hydro business in 2008. Andritz Group, a leader in advanced production systems for pulp and paper, steel, and other specialized industries, moved fully into hydropower in 2006 with the acquisition of VA Tech Hydro, from Siemens Austria.

Obama names Locke to Commerce

President Obama nominated former Washington Gov. Gary Locke to be Commerce secretary, subject to Senate confirmation. The Commerce Department includes NOAA Fisheries, which is responsible for marine resources, including how they are affected by hydroelectric projects. As governor, Locke negotiated a Washington State-Canada salmon treaty after negotiations between the U.S. State Department and Canada reached an impasse on protecting wild salmon. He also conceived the West Coast Governors’ Initiative on Climate Change, and launched public and private initiatives to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and increase conservation. Locke is a partner in the Seattle office of law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, where he specialized in China, energy, and government relations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Yale University and a law degree from Boston University. The first Chinese-American governor in U.S. history, Locke led eight trade missions to China and opened a state trade office in Guangzhou.

APPA urges hydro O&M funding

American Public Power Association (APPA) members passed a resolution Feb. 24 urging Congress to adequately fund the maintenance of federally owned hydropower projects to ensure their maximum efficiency. APPA’s Legislative and Resolutions Committee said hydropower generated by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation projects is an important source of low-cost, clean electricity for public power utilities. “Unfortunately, the federal hydropower resource is growing old, and not gracefully,” the resolution said. It said appropriations for maintenance, replacement, and rehabilitation of hydropower equipment have not kept pace with deterioration. The Corps has an operations and maintenance backlog of about $350 million, plus another $1.56 billion in needed major rehabilitation. Reclamation has identified many hydro projects for funding and has reported a $1 billion backlog in various water-related projects. APPA said federal money is available without affecting the long-term federal deficit because it is returned to the U.S. Treasury through wholesale power rates paid by public power utilities.


Hydro Currents is compiled by the staff of HydroNews.net, a product of PennWell Corporation, the world’s leading provider of hydro information. To subscribe, call (1) 816-931-1311, or visit the Internet: www.hcipub.com


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