By David Moller
Hydropower is on a roll! The National Hydropower Association's aggressive messaging campaign over the past two years is paying off.
That campaign, targeting opinion leaders and policy makers, tells hydropower's compelling story as an available, reliable, affordable and sustainable electric resource that already provides nearly two-thirds of the U.S.'s renewable energy supply - with the potential to grow by 60,000 MW in the next 15 to 20 years. This growth will create 1.4 million cumulative new jobs to add to the 300,000 American workers already employed in our industry. In April 2012, NHA added supply chain information that identifies nearly 2,000 companies across the U.S. that depend on a growing hydropower sector. NHA's messaging also touts hydropower's key role in providing grid reliability and integrating intermittent renewables such as wind and solar.
Because of NHA's efforts, both Congress and the Obama administration now recognize the increasing role hydropower can play in the U.S.'s clean energy future, and this is leading to action.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy adopted a goal to meet 15% of the nation's electricity needs from water power technologies by 2030 - more than doubling hydropower's current contribution. And, in 2011, Congress appropriated $59 million for water power research and development - the largest investment in at least a decade. The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation is now encouraging non-federal development of hydropower at federal facilities. And legislation to improve the regulatory environment for hydropower is moving through Congress with strong bipartisan support.
Despite these gains, shifting market and political circumstances are presenting new challenges. In particular, the lowest price in decades for natural gas and the uncertainty stemming from Washington's fiscal constraint are combining to threaten capital investment in our industry.
NHA is working to address these challenges and to improve the business environment for hydropower development. On the regulatory front, NHA is aggressively pushing forward with next steps to reduce the time and cost of hydro licensing. More than ever, it is vital to achieve such reforms to bolster hydropower's competitiveness in a changing marketplace. As a nation and as an industry we can do better, while still maintaining sound environmental protections. Additionally, a new NHA task force is identifying market barriers and working to improve hydro's ability to compete and be appropriately valued for the full scope of services it provides. In November, NHA will host a Hydro Finance Summit to bring investors and developers together to discuss how best to advance new hydro development.
NHA is also working to improve operating performance of the existing hydropower fleet with its Operational Excellence initiative. As part of this effort, NHA is launching a pilot program this fall to connect hydropower plant owners through an event reporting system that alerts them to potential safety and operating issues experienced by other plant operators. A full roll-out of this program is planned for mid-2013.
These efforts and initiatives require the collective knowledge, experience and participation of the entire hydropower industry to succeed. If you haven't done so already, write your Congressional representatives and urge them to co-sponsor supportive hydropower legislation. Join NHA and get involved in its committees and councils to ensure your voice is heard. Add your company to NHA's hydropower supply chain snapshot. Visit hydro.org for more information or contact NHA staff at (1) 202-682-1700.
Working together, we can fulfill the promise hydropower holds for our world and make sure it continues to roll!
Guest Editorial - by David Moller
David Moller is president of the National Hydropower Association. NHA is an official supporting association of HydroVision International 2012.
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