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BREAKING NEWS: Hydro Currents

Hydro rallies on Capitol Hill

More than 100 members of the National Hydropower Association (NHA) packed a House committee room on Capitol Hill, rallying for equal treatment of hydropower as the world’s largest, most reliable renewable energy source. The rally kicked off three days of the NHA Annual Conference, May 11-13 in Washington. Hydro industry delegates met with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., a founder of the Congressional Hydropower Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members formed in 2008 to educate Congress about the benefits of hydropower. McMorris Rodgers said she worked to create the caucus due to her constituents’ concerns about environmentalist efforts to remove four Corps of Engineers hydroelectric projects on the Lower Snake River in her congressional district. The congresswoman told Hydro Review that the bipartisan nature of the caucus gave her hope that the Democratic administration also can be educated to the benefits of retaining and expanding the nation’s hydroelectric assets despite environmentalist pressure.

Obama names Democrat Norris to FERC

President Obama nominated Iowa Democrat John R. Norris to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 11 to fill a seat vacated by the resignation of former Chairman Joseph Kelliher, a Republican. Norris, most recently chief of staff to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is former chief of staff to then Iowa Gov. Vilsack, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, and chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board from 2005-2009. The nomination shifts the five-member commission’s political balance to three Democrats and two Republicans from three Republicans and two Democrats. In March, Obama designated Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff, a Nevada independent turned Democrat, to be chairman. He also renominated Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, a New Mexico Democrat, to a third term. The Republicans on the panel are Philip Moeller of Washington and Marc Spitzer of Arizona.

Barnes named Hydro Group publisher

PennWell Corporation named Marla Barnes publisher of its hydropower magazines and events, including Hydro Review and HRW magazines, the HydroVision and Waterpower conferences and exhibitions, and the electronic news service HydroWorld.com. At the same time, Dick Rauner was named publisher of PennWell’s North American Renewable Energy Group, of which the Hydropower businesses are a part, along with the Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Exhibition, and the newly announced Renewable Energy World North America magazine. Barnes previously was chief editor of the hydropower publications, which PennWell acquired in December 2008 from Kansas City, Mo.-based HCI Publications Inc. She has 20 years’ experience as an editor and conference organizer in the hydropower industry. She is relocating from Kansas City to PennWell’s headquarters in Tulsa, Okla. Rauner previously was exhibit and sponsorship sales manager for PennWell’s Renewable Energy World North America conference and exhibition.

Newfoundland seizure challenged

Newsprint manufacturer AbitibiBowater Inc. said it will challenge Newfoundland and Labrador’s seizure of its hydropower projects on the Exploits River. AbitibiBowater announced it would submit a claim to arbitration under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As a company incorporated in the United States, AbitibiBowater filed the notice under a NAFTA dispute resolution mechanism. It said it would subject the claim to arbitration in three months, should the matter not be resolved by that date. AbitibiBowater seeks more than C$300 million (US$246 million) for what it sees as the fair market value of the assets and rights. Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams announced in December 2008 the province would expropriate the company’s timber rights and hydro assets when it closed its last newsprint mill in the province.

NHA honors Sen. Cantwell

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) named Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the Legislator of the Year for fighting to extend expiring production tax credits for hydropower. NHA honored the senator during the opening session of its annual conference in Washington. Despite her success in pushing to extend production tax credits for incremental hydropower, ocean energy, and other renewables, Cantwell said more work remains to level the playing field for hydro. Current law grants incremental hydropower projects only half the production tax credit offered to other technologies. Although adjusted for inflation each year, hydro projects receive roughly 1 cent per kilowatt-hour (kWh), compared to 2 cents/kWh for other technologies. “There is no credible reason not to give hydro the full credit,” Cantwell said.

Obama offers $30 million for hydro research

President Obama proposes spending $30 million on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) hydropower research and development program next year – $10 million less than appropriated for this year. The new figure was included in details of the president’s $26.4 billion budget proposal for DOE in the 2010 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The president signed a $410 billion appropriations bill in March that included $40 million for DOE’s R&D program. That bill provided for current year R&D for ocean renewable technologies, including demonstration programs, and for conventional hydropower research, development, and deployment.

House climate bill boosts renewables

A House committee endorsed climate change legislation including a renewable electricity standard that would require utilities to increase the amount of power they obtain from renewable energy sources. Eligible renewables include some hydropower and ocean energy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33-25 in May to advance the bill containing a “cap and trade” climate change initiative backed by President Obama. Assuming other committee approvals, the full House could act on a bill by August. The renewable electricity standard requires companies that sell more than 4 million megawatt-hours per year to meet a percentage of their load from renewable sources or from energy savings. The legislation defines eligible renewable energy sources to include incremental hydropower, marine and other hydrokinetic energy, and wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal sources. The bill also would allow utilities to exclude existing hydropower from their base amount of electricity when calculating the amount of renewable energy they must obtain.

Quebec transmission line to deliver hydro to U.S.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a funding arrangement for a major transmission project to deliver 1,200 MW of hydropower from Quebec in Canada to the New England region of the United States. FERC approved a non-traditional participant-funded transmission line and the assignment of firm transmission rights to Hydro-Quebec to enable it to deliver low-carbon hydropower to New England. Hydro-Quebec is to pay for the line and recover its investment through long-term power purchase agreements. Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador reports it received permission for the first time from neighboring Quebec to wheel power from the 5,428-MW Churchill Falls hydroelectric project through Quebec into the greater North American marketplace.

Senate confirms Connor to Reclamation

The Senate confirmed the nomination May 22 of Senate committee staff lawyer Michael Connor to serve as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. President Obama nominated Connor, a lawyer for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee since May 2001. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hailed the appointment of Connor to lead the Interior Department agency, which is the second largest producer of hydropower in the western United States. From 1993 to 2001, Connor served as Interior’s deputy director, and then directed the department’s Indian Water Rights Office. Pacific Northwest Region Director Bill McDonald had been serving as acting commissioner since Commissioner Robert Johnson retired in January.

U.S. offers $2.4 billion in energy bonds

The Internal Revenue Service invites applications for $2.4 billion in bonding authority offered in a new round of allocations under the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) program. Applications are due Aug. 4. The CREBs can be used to help finance development of facilities that generate electricity from renewables, including hydro and ocean energy sources. The bonds are offered to entities that are not eligible for tax credits: state, local, and tribal governments; public power providers; and electric cooperatives. For information, see the IRS Internet site: www.irs.gov/taxexemptbond/index.html.

Hydro Review seeks circulation audit

Hydro Review magazine has applied for business publication membership in BPA Worldwide, a global media auditing organization. BPA Worldwide will track circulation for Hydro Review based on business/distribution, demographics, and geographic coverage. “With a BPA audit, media buyers can be confident that circulation claims are accurate, and that they have the verified data that they need to assess a publication’s effectiveness in serving its market,” BPA Worldwide President Glenn Hansen said. The circulation of Hydro Review’s sister publication, HRW - Hydro Review Worldwide, has been audited regularly for several years by BPA Worldwide, ensuring the validity of the international magazine’s circulation claims.

Court stays FERC land use fee hike

Nine hydro project licensees won the first skirmish in fight against a sharp increase in federal land use fees based on a new formula by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a stay April 30, preventing FERC from raising fees on the project operators until there is a full hearing on the increase, or a reconsideration by FERC. The licensees said their new land use bills exceed $8 million, nearly $5.5 million more than the previous year and an increase of more than 200 percent. Another 300 licensees, who did not appeal, face increases. The group argued that FERC issued new fee rules without notice and comment, making the rule invalid. They also said FERC failed to make a required finding that the new fees would result in reasonable annual charges that would seek to avoid increasing consumer prices.


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