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Breaking News: Hydro Currents

FERC approves relicense settlement for Tacoma Power's 131-MW Cushman

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a settlement agreement that finalizes the long-awaited relicensing of Tacoma Power's 131-MW Cushman project on Washington's North Fork Skokomish River.

Tacoma Power, Skokomish Tribal Nation, and state and federal agencies signed the settlement in January 2009, resolving a $5.8 billion damage claim and long-standing disputes over relicense terms for Cushman. The pact concluded 36 years of relicensing, nearly two years of negotiations, and decades of contention.

Although the settlement agreement allowed Tacoma Power to continue to operate the project for 40 years, the modifications and new construction led FERC to issue a 50-year relicense. However, the relicense is dated from 1998, when FERC initially issued a relicense order that was challenged by Tacoma Power.

The July 15 FERC order authorizes Tacoma Power to add a 3.6-MW powerhouse to the 81-MW Cushman No. 2 development, bringing total project installed capacity to 134.6 MW. The U.S. Department of Energy last year allocated up to $4.67 million in economic stimulus funds to the new powerhouse, which will generate 23,500 MWh from flow restoration water released into the river as part of the relicense order.

The agreement addresses issues that sparked contention for many years, including river restoration, in-stream flows, fish passage improvements, and recreation. For example, the agreement calls for downstream fish passage for juvenile salmonids and upstream passage for adult salmonids.

As part of the settlement, and to resolve a damage claim, filed in 1999, the Skokomish Tribal Nation will receive: a $12.6 million one-time cash payment; 7.25 percent of the value of electricity generated at Cushman No. 2; and transfer of land valued at $23 million. The original license expired in 1974.

HydroVision sets record attendance

HydroVision International 2010, held July 27-30 in Charlotte, N.C., drew 3,000 attendees, the largest attendance in the history of HydroVision, as hydropower professionals from across the world gathered to create new business opportunities and share new ideas.

Professionals representing 50 countries attended the conference and exhibition, which featured more than 400 speakers and 278 exhibitors. The conference featured 70 sessions, including 88 presentations in 21 technical sessions.

More than 700 people attended the opening plenary session, where Jim Turner, president and chief operating officer of the U.S. franchised electric and gas business for Duke Energy, delivered the keynote address.

Turner urged attendees to do their part in making sure hydropower does not get overlooked in efforts to increase the use of renewable energy.

"Hydro has gotten lost in the race toward solar, wind, and other currently popular green energy sources," Turner said. "Hydro represents a vast renewable energy resource that should not be ignored."

Hydropower represents 75 percent of all renewable energy in the U.S., Turner said, adding that just 3 percent of the 79,000 dams in the U.S. are used to generate electricity. The potential for additional hydropower capacity is significant, he said.

National Hydropower Association President Andrew Munro pointed to the signing of a federal memorandum of understanding for hydropower as a sign of positive change for hydropower developers in the U.S.

"It's a new ball game," Munro said. "We're on a new field, and hydropower is a leading player."

BC Hydro selects final project under Clean Power Call

Provincial utility BC Hydro selected the final project to be awarded an electricity purchase agreement under the Clean Power Call, bringing the call to a close after acquiring close to 3,300 gigawatt hours per year of clean energy.

Box Canyon Hydro Corp. and Sound Energy Inc.'s run-of-river project near Port Mellon will generate 50 GWhs of clean energy every year and is the 27th project to be selected for an electricity purchase agreement under the Clean Power Call.

"The Clean Power Call brings us closer to the Clean Energy Act commitment of making British Columbia electricity self-sufficient by 2016," said Bill Bennett, minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. "The 27 clean energy projects that have been selected will entail capital investments of more than C$3.8 billion and create more than 3,800 person-years of employment."

The projects are near 17 communities: Chetwynd, Gold Bridge, Golden, Harrison Hot Springs, McBride, Mission, Pemberton, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Port Mellon, Powell River, Sechelt, Squamish, Sparwood, Stewart, Terrace and Tumbler Ridge.

"These projects are proof that in British Columbia we have the resources and the ingenuity to power homes and businesses with clean, renewable energy sources - harnessing wind and water to meet the province's growing electricity demand in a way that is sustainable for generations," said David Cobb, chief executive officer and president of BC Hydro.

In June, BC Hydro selected Castle Mountain Hydro's Benjamin Creek run-of-river hydro project for an electricity purchase agreement. The hydropower project, near McBride, has a capacity of 6 MW.

The Clean Power Call request for proposals was issued in June of 2008 and attracted considerable competitive interest from B.C.'s clean energy sector with 43 proponents submitting 68 proposals for more than 17,000 GWh per year of clean energy.

Lawmaker introduces Small-Scale Hydropower Enhancement Act

During a recent House Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee hearing on hydropower, U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., introduced the Small-Scale Hydropower Enhancement Act (H.R. 5922).

The bill is designed to encourage and promote efforts to produce more hydropower from smaller sources. Federal policies imposing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting rules have effectively stifled advancements and innovation in the small hydropower field, Smith said.

"One-size-fits-all federal regulations make small scale hydropower projects throughout the country financially prohibitive by imposing unnecessary and outdated rules," he said. "My bill would help stimulate the economy of rural America, empower local irrigation districts to generate revenue and decrease reliance on fossil fuels - all at no cost to the taxpayer."

Smith's bill would exempt any conduit-type hydropower project generating less than one and a half megawatt from FERC jurisdiction. The bill also would require the Bureau of Reclamation to examine its facilities for more conduit generation opportunities using existing funding.

Legislation introduced to boost hydropower generation

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the production of electricity from hydropower and creating jobs in America's energy sector.

The Hydropower Improvement Act and the Hydropower Renewable Energy Development Act would boost federal support for hydropower projects.

The Hydropower Improvement Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash; and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, aims to increase the capacity of our nation's hydropower sources to generate clean, renewable electricity by up to 75,000 MW.

"Hydropower is one of our greatest untapped resources for generating clean, renewable electricity," Murkowski said.

The legislation establishes a competitive grants program and directs the U.S. Department of Energy to produce and implement a plan for the research, development, and demonstration of increased hydropower capacity. The bill also gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority to streamline the permitting and review process for hydropower projects, and calls for studies on pumped-storage sites and the potential for development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities.

National Hydropower Association Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said: "NHA hopes that this bill also spurs additional consideration of hydropower in energy and climate policymaking. For example, Congress must provide continued long-term incentives for project development to create the stable investment environment developers need to expand America's hydropower resources. NHA strongly supports this effort to maximize hydropower's contribution in meeting the country's energy, environmental and economic goals."

FERC inaugurates Commissioner LaFleur

For the first time in months, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has a full bench with the swearing in of Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur on July 13.

On June 22, the Senate confirmed President Obama's nomination of LaFleur, a Democrat and utility executive, and the renomination of Commissioner Philip D. Moeller, a Republican, to the five-member panel.

LaFleur, of Massachusetts, was named to succeed Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, a New Mexico Democrat who declined renomination in 2009. LaFleur's term expires in 2014.

LaFleur has more than 20 years' experience as a leader in the New England electricity and gas industries, retiring in 2007 as executive vice president and acting chief executive of National Grid USA.

No more than three members of the same political party may serve on the five-member commission. Other Democrats are Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and John R. Norris of Iowa, who was nominated by Obama and confirmed by the Senate in January. The other Republican is Marc Spitzer of Arizona.

Renewable energy industry critical of Reid energy bill

Facing opposition from the Republican Senate Delegation, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., revealed plans to put comprehensive energy legislation, including cap-and-trade and renewable portfolio standard provisions, on hold.

Reid and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., have said that the bill will not replace a more comprehensive package from coming to the floor early this fall. Still, reaction from leaders in the renewable energy industry has been critical.

Reid said that the bill includes only four titles. The first would force BP to pay for clean up in the Gulf of Mexico and help prevent future diasters. The second would fund residential energy efficiency retrofit programs. The third would promote the development of natural gas fueled heavy vehicles, and the final provision will create clean energy jobs, according to Reid.

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