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Breaking News: Hydro Currents

Navigant Consulting says U.S. hydropower has potential to quadruple capacity

Hydropower capacity in the U.S. has the potential to reach four times its current amount, with job creation expanding exponentially as well, research from Navigant Consulting Inc. suggests. Navigant Consulting Managing Director Lisa Frantzis discussed these findings during a HydroWorld.com interview at the Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo North America 2010 in Austin, Texas. Currently, hydropower represents about 7 percent of U.S. electricity generation, with about 100,000 MW of capacity. However, Navigant Consulting research suggests hydropower's technical potential is around 400,000 MW, Frantzis said. With increased hydro capacity comes increased hydro industry employment, Frantzis said, noting that up to 700,000 jobs could be directly or indirectly related to hydropower by 2025 if potential industry growth is met. Currently, the U.S. supports 200,000 to 300,000 hydropower jobs. Job creation projections are based on a 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2025.

FERC budget seeks US$70.5 million for FY 2011 hydropower program

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has asked Congress to approve a fiscal year 2011 budget of $315.6 million, including $70.5 million for its hydropower licensing and regulation program. FERC submitted its budget request to Congress February 1, 2010, seeking an increase of 5.9 percent from estimated spending for FY 2010. Program requests for FY 2011, which begins October 2010, include: Hydropower, $70.5 million, up from $66.9 million in FY 2010; Electric Power, $167.5 million, up from $158.1 million; and Natural Gas and Oil Pipelines, $77.5 million, up from $72.9 million. FERC also estimated it expects to process 44 pre-filing applications for licenses in FY 2011. FERC said it expects to receive 89 original license applications, 59 of which are expected to be for projects utilizing hydrokinetic technologies. In FY 2009, FERC acted on 18 applications representing 1,361.5 MW; that number is expected to increase to 25 in FY 2011. FERC said the number of environmental and engineering compliance actions has increased by about 30 percent over the past two years, from 20 to 25 per license to 40 to 60 per license. It said requirements have increased due to complex settlement agreements and an increasing number of mandatory conditions under Clean Water Act section 401 and Federal Power Act Section 4(e). FERC said it expects its dam safety program to conduct more than 1,800 inspections in FY 2011. The commission said it will develop in FY 2010 an action plan to incorporate risk-informed decision making into its dam safety program. In FY 2011, FERC plans to prepare a portfolio risk assessment of its dam inventory. The assessment is to help FERC staff identify high-risk dams that need more urgent attention.

Memorandum of understanding to support U.S. hydropower development

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote the development of hydropower. Included in the MOU are the goals of identifying future sustainable hydropower generation sites, upgrading existing hydro projects, and promoting new hydropower technologies while increasing cooperation among agencies. The MOU also calls for an increased emphasis on environmentally-friendly hydropower production practices. DOE Secretary Steven Chu and DOI Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the two agencies, along with the Corps, will cooperate more closely and align priorities to support the development of environmentally sustainable hydropower. The MOU represents a new approach to hydropower development – a strategy that can increase the production of clean, renewable power while avoiding or reducing environmental effects and enhancing the viability of ecosystems, a DOE press release states. By signing an MOU, the federal agencies agree to focus on increasing energy generation at federally-owned facilities while exploring opportunities for new development of low-impact hydropower. The MOU aims to increase communication between federal agencies and strengthen the long-term relationship between them to prioritize the generation and development of sustainable hydropower, the government reports. The MOU is supported by detailed action items, including technology development and deployment, green hydropower certification, federal inland hydropower coordination, renewable energy integration and energy storage, and regulatory process facilitation.

Duke Energy head to deliver keynote address at HydroVision International

James E. Rogers, chairman of the board, president, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Duke Energy, will give the keynote address at the HydroVision International 2010 Conference and Exhibition in Charlotte, N.C. HydroVision International, the year's largest gathering of hydropower professionals, is planned for July 27-30, 2010, at the Charlotte Convention Center. Rogers, who has more than 21 years of experience as a utility CEO, has held his current position at Duke Energy since 2007. Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power companies in the U.S., supplying and delivering energy to about 4 million customers. The HydroVision International conference will highlight perspectives on the role of hydropower, explore issues affecting hydro resources, and help participants develop a vision to meet challenges and ensure the future sustainability of hydropower. Hydro Review, HRW, and PennEnergy are flagship media sponsors of HydroVision International, which is owned and produced by PennWell. For more details, or for registration and sponsorship information, visit the Events page located under the Home tab at www.hydroworld.com, or visit www.hydroevent.com.

Hydro-Quebec, New Brunswick Power call off electric power asset sale

A multi-billion-dollar electric power generation asset and transmission deal between provincial utilities Hydro-Quebec and New Brunswick Power has been canceled. Hydro-Quebec was supposed to pay C$3.2 billion (US$3.13 billion) for the bulk of New Brunswick Power's power generation assets and 670 MW of transmission rights to New England. Hydro-Quebec sought an amendment after its due diligence review found more risks involved than what the firm was willing to make, said New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham. The agreement, which would have given Hydro-Quebec better access to markets in the northeastern U.S., was scaled back from a C$4.75 billion (US$4.49 billion) deal announced in October 2009. Generating assets were to include seven hydroelectric facilities and two diesel peaking units located on the main grid, plus firm transmission rights associated with those assets. Hydro-Quebec also was to acquire the Point Lepreau nuclear facility for C$1.4 billion upon its successful refurbishment, on or about Jan. 1, 2011.

Reclamation moving forward on Klamath River dams removal plan

The Bureau of Reclamation plans to seek proposals for an economic study of an agreement to remove four dams in the 161.338-MW Klamath project in Oregon and California. Project licensee PacifiCorp and other parties unveiled a settlement agreement in September 2009 on resolution of Klamath River resource issues and removal of the utility's main Klamath River hydropower plants and dams, 20-MW Copco 1, 27-MW Copco 2, 18-MW Iron Gate, and 90.338-MW J.C. Boyle. Parties signed two framework agreements in February 2010 for removing the dams by 2020 if Congress and Interior Department scientists approve. Also in February 2010, Reclamation awarded a contract to Research Triangle Institute to evaluate the economic potential of fisheries restoration. Reclamation announced it plans to seek proposals for an economic study to complete an environmental review of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement under federal and California environmental laws. The settlement calls for PacifiCorp customers to pay $200 million of the dam removal costs. The state of California is to provide up to another $250 million, with total project costs not to exceed $450 million. The environmental review is to include development of a federal environmental impact statement, state environmental impact report, biological assessment, and secretarial determination overview report. Additional work is to include providing technical assistance and support for the secretarial determination on removing the four mainstem Klamath dams and transfer of the non-powered Keno Dam to the Interior Department.

FERC staff recommends relicensing 960.9-MW Coosa River

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff recommend a proposal to combine and relicense three Alabama Power Co. hydro projects totaling 960.9 MW. Alabama Power proposed combining its 690.9-MW Coosa River, 100-MW Jordan, and 170-MW Mitchell projects and relicensing them under the Coosa River name and number. FERC staff issued an environmental assessment recommending the combined project be relicensed based on Alabama Power's proposal plus FERC staff modifications. Alabama Power proposed operational changes to raise winter water levels at three reservoirs, minimum flows to enhance aquatic habitat and species, a water quality monitoring plan, and funding for aquatic enhancements. FERC staff recommended additional measures including a drought management plan, pool elevation operational changes, an erosion repair and monitoring plan, adaptive management of instream flows, minimum flow studies, fish passage consultations, and a revised recreation plan. The staff modifications are based on recommendations of federal and state fish and wildlife agencies. The environmental assessment said the relicensing proposal with staff modifications would have an annual net benefit of $212.9 million, compared to $212.6 million for the licensee proposal alone and $225.8 million for continued operation of the project with no changes. FERC staff said relicensing the project would provide 3 million megawatt-hours annually that would offset the use of fossil-fueled generation.

Decreased runoff could cause Bonneville Power Administration revenue shortfall

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has reduced its expectations for hydroelectric power revenue this fiscal year by more than $200 million because of new forecasts for a continued depressed runoff in the Columbia Basin. BPA estimates it will finish the fiscal year with a loss of $6 million in modified net revenues instead of the $231.9 million in positive revenues projected at the start of the fiscal year in October 2009. BPA is a federal agency headquartered in Portland, Ore., that markets power from dams in the Federal Columbia River Power System. BPA compiled the new estimates as part of its Quarterly Business Review. However, runoff projections have further declined since the estimates were developed. The reduced estimates result from a persistent El Nino weather pattern that has brought unusually dry conditions to the Northwest. The February 2010 forecast from the National Weather Service's Northwest River Forecast Center called for 79.2 million acre-feet of runoff from January through July as traditionally measured at The Dalles, Ore. That represents 74 percent of the 30-year average of 107.3 million acre-feet and would be the lowest runoff since 2001.

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