Looking ahead to 2013
This year, NHA celebrates 30 years as the hydropower industry's advocate in Washington. This role is even more important as more than 100 new members of Congress come to Capitol Hill and new faces join the Obama administration for its second term. We look forward to engaging with policy makers to discuss the important role our nation's largest renewable plays in our energy mix, hydropower's growth potential, the urgent need for improved regulatory policy and the industry's pursuit of the highest level of operational excellence.
Involving industry members every step of the way in each of these initiatives will be key to NHA's success. Over the next year, we will remain committed to promoting the hydropower industry, and we hope that you will join us in this endeavor.
The 113th Congress and the hydro agenda
After the protracted presidential and congressional 2012 campaign, the U.S. elections basically resulted in a political status quo.
As President Barack Obama enters his second term, this also means changes in key energy Cabinet positions that oversee some aspect of hydropower policy. Both Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are leaving the cabinet once new secretaries have been confirmed by the Senate. The newly nominated Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, comes from an acamedic background with significant knowledge with regard to energy policy. The newly nominated Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, has a solid understanding of business and appreciates the importance of conservation. As a trustee to Avista, she has experience working with the electric industry. NHA will be reaching out to both new secretaries to hone their understanding of the importance of hydropower and the need to devise new national policies that recognize the changing world and hydro's unique attributes so critical to ensuring reliability and grid security.
From a legislative perspective, the dynamics for President Obama to work successfully with both parties to enact legislation will continue unchanged in the 113th Congress. Democrats increased their majority in the Senate and picked up seats in the House of Representatives. Republicans maintained control of the House, guaranteeing at least two more years of divided government.
What does this mean for advancing the hydro agenda?
Enacting any legislation will continue to be a tough uphill climb but one that NHA believes hydropower is well-positioned to conquer.
The 112th Congress was one of the least productive in decades, if measured by the amount of bills passed. This follows a consistent downward trend over the past 10 years.
At the end of 2012, about 200 bills made their way through the Congress to the President's desk. This is less than half the number approved by the end of the 108th Congress in 2004. As a result, more policy priorities are fighting for the attention of Congress, with fewer legislative vehicles for enactment.
With the party's differing philosophies on the size and role of government, the increasing concern and debate over government spending, and the continued lack of bipartisan agreement on many issues, conventional wisdom points to another two years of reduced congressional action.
Hydropower, however, is set to buck this trend, and NHA anticipates a successful result in Congress on hydropower policy this year.
Historically, energy policy has always been more a regional issue than a partisan one. And in the last Congress, legislation aimed to reduce regulatory inefficiencies for the development of certain low-impact hydropower projects saw unprecedented support from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers.
As mentioned earlier, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act passed the House unanimously (372-0) in 2012 - the only substantive piece of energy legislation to do so.
Earlier in 2011, the Senate Energy Committee passed the Hydropower Improvement Act on a voice vote, one of the first pieces of legislation to be reported favorably out of the Committee that year. Unfortunately, the bill was caught up in the larger difficult political environment discussed earlier and did not get a vote by the full Senate.
However, both the new chairman of the Senate Energy Committee Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have publicly committed to moving hydro legislation forward in 2013. Both have also commented that they foresee more action on smaller energy issues, such as hydro policy, as opposed to a larger, comprehensive energy bill. In addition, both feel that dispatchable renewables, like hydropower, have received "short shrift" when it comes to energy and tax policy and want to devote renewed attention to the issues facing our industry and others.
In fact, the House has already approved and sent to the Senate H.R. 267, the re-introduced version of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, which was one of the first energy bills voted on in the chamber. Once again, the support was unanimous (422-0).
NHA expects the Senate Energy Committee to quickly follow suit and act on hydropower policy before the end of the second quarter.
The successful progress of these hydro bills demonstrates the renewed and growing recognition of hydropower as an important part of a diverse national energy portfolio. Whether to meet clean energy goals, ensure American energy security, or enable more affordable, reliable power to customers, members of Congress are lining up to support hydropower like never before.
As the national voice of the hydropower industry and its representative in Washington, D.C., NHA is pleased to see this spotlight on the energy, environmental and economic benefits of the hydropower resource.
Through our work, as well as leveraging the involvement of our members and the industry at large, we look forward to building on these accomplishments for even greater policy support for the industry. We encourage hydro supporters to get engaged with NHA as we work to protect existing hydro resources and promote new development for a vital hydropower industry.
While we are in a time of tremendous opportunity to do more for hydropower, we still must compete with other priorities on the national agenda. Big issues such as gun control, deficit and debt reduction, immigration and comprehensive tax reform will be marquee issues in the 113th Congress.
Now more than ever is the time for the hydropower industry and its supporters to stand up and be heard.
NHA's Messages to the 113th Congress
Value hydropower and its role in addressing U.S. energy, economic, environmental and security goals. This is the main concept underlying NHA's policy work with the new Congress, the administration and federal agencies in 2013.
Already more than 7% of total electricity generation in the country, with a workforce of 300,000 people, hydropower has the potential to grow by 60,000 MW by 2025, in the process creating more than 1.4 million new cumulative domestic jobs.
In order to realize this potential and the concurrent benefits, NHA seeks to enact policies that remove unnecessary regulatory and market barriers and promote hydropower's growth (conventional, pumped storage, wave, tidal and hydrokinetics).
Doing so will bring Americans increased energy security, improved grid reliability and more affordable energy needed to power the U.S. economy.
As such, NHA promotes the following areas in its work in Washington, D.C:
- Licensing improvements and reform;
- Economic incentives;
- Recognition in clean/renewable energy policies; and
- Technology advancement and project deployment funding for the U.S. Department of Energy and federal hydropower owners.
NHA's top priority remains a more efficient regulatory process for hydropower licensing for new and existing projects.
Statutory and administrative reforms to better implement the authorities of hydropower permitting and licensing agencies and the better coordination of approval processes among those many agencies is a necessity to allow hydropower projects to compete on a level playing field with other technologies with shorter development timelines, such as wind and natural gas.
To that end, NHA established an expedited licensing initiative in 2012. As part of the initiative, NHA convened a working group that includes NHA staff, industry members, environmental groups and policy think tanks to develop consensus regulatory policy improvements that will lead to more clean, affordable and reliable hydropower capacity in the U.S.
Already, this approach is bearing fruit. Working with the group, NHA drafted and presented legislative proposals to Congress in February 2013 to improve the approval processes for non-federal hydropower development on infrastructure owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As a result of that effort, in March Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA) released a draft of the Water Resources Development Act that included some of these proposed improvements, including making hydropower development a Corps priority, timely and consistent reviews and approvals, and encourages the Corps to develop clear lines of authority on hydropower project development. NHA will be continuing to follow the development of the bill as it moves through the legislative process and will be mindful of opportunities to build off of this language.
NHA also continues to push for the passage of the hydropower regulatory bills introduced in the 112th Congress - bills that received widespread bipartisan backing, as well as the support of industry and the environmental community.
However, we believe these are but the first steps in a larger discussion to address further issues in the hydropower regulatory regime and look forward to engagement with stakeholders and others on those issues.
Another high priority for the association is continued tax policy support that provides incentive for hydropower growth, recognizing the specific needs of the industry resulting from the long lead time for project deployment.
Existing tax treatments provide a predictable market signal, which in turn leverages private investment, stimulates job creation and creates local economic benefits. Large, capital-intensive hydropower projects require this certainty in order to compete for investment and attract financing.
NHA supports continued investment in existing incentives and is examining new tax policy options to fully realize the growth potential of the industry, all while remaining responsive to the changing tax policy environment.
Technology advancement and federal hydro project deployment
Although hydropower is a proven, reliable technology, plant owners and operators are always seeking ways to increase generating efficiencies, improve water use, enhance environmental performance and develop better operating regimes.
Now the industry seeks to address new issues resulting from the ever-changing electricity market and the challenges posed by integration issues and grid reliability concerns.
Supporting federal research and development to address these issues and concerns will propel the hydropower industry, enhancing its contribution to the nation's electricity portfolio.
In addition, the federal hydropower system comprises about 50% of U.S. hydropower generation. NHA supports continued investment for the Corps Civil Works program, as well as that at the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior, to maintain and upgrade existing projects as well as build on Reclamation's non-powered facilities.
Currently, projects that can be developed on federal facilities are often delayed too long to realize the significant energy potential due to the inconsistent support for hydropower development and the approaches to working with industry members by federal agency staff.
Clean/renewable energy programs
Hydropower must be included in any programs designed to spur clean, renewable electricity resources.
As the largest source of renewable electricity generation in the country, hydropower is a clean air resource that should be acknowledged, and its benefits recognized, under any federal programs or initiatives to spur additional clean energy generation.
The nation's use of hydropower prevents nearly 200 million metric tons of carbon pollution in the U.S. each year, equal to the output of more than 38 million passenger cars. Communities that rely on hydropower as a primary energy source reap the benefits of cleaner air and water, and satellite imagery shows that the Pacific Northwest, home to a majority of the hydropower in the U.S., is an island of low carbon emissions.
For more information on NHA's policy priorities and messages, please contact Jeff Leahey, NHA's Director of Government Affairs at email@example.com. Additional information can also be found at www.hydro.org.
Telling Hydro's Story
Over the past few years, NHA has taken a more aggressive approach to telling hydropower's story to the public and the media. We launched a re-designed website in 2011, which we continue to improve daily, and our social media presence continues to grow. This year, we are focused on gaining a better understanding of the policy landscape and increasing media outreach to raise hydropower's voice in the energy debate. The industry's engagement in NHA's efforts to communicate the value of hydropower as part of the nation's diverse energy portfolio is critical to furthering this goal.
So far in 2013, NHA has invested in research to assess the political environment in Washington, D.C., and re-calibrate our messages after the 2012 elections. Several hours of in-depth interviews with stakeholders from Capitol Hill, non-governmental organizations, think tanks and private sector industries were conducted in January to understand the pulse of hydropower's reputation and to get an idea of the lens through which policy elites are viewing the ever-changing energy debate. Once those were completed, the next step was to gauge the credibility and effectiveness of the results and refine our most persuasive messages through focus groups.
What we have learned so far is that we have made progress since first testing the environment and developing our messaging back in 2010. Hydropower is now a larger part of the energy conversation discussion, and there is now greater awareness by stakeholders of hydro's key benefits. Most importantly, there is openness to improving hydropower's regulatory process in order to protect and develop hydropower as a clean energy resource.
NHA looks forward to sharing the full findings of this research with our membership. Armed with new information, NHA and its members will be better-equipped to tell hydropower's compelling story in communications with media, policy makers, and their local communities.
The research backs up what NHA has known anecdotally: NHA and hydropower are greater factors in the country's ongoing energy debate. Since the beginning of 2013, we have seen record interest from trade and local media in talking to NHA about hydropower's growth potential, our legislative agenda and the ongoing work of our members across the country. So far this year, we have been contacted by twice as many journalists than we had at the same time last year.
In a rapidly expanding and ever-challenging technological media market, our social media presence continues to grow as well. Over the course of 2012, we increased our audience on Facebook and Twitter 91% and 74%, respectively. These platforms offer NHA a chance to inform journalists, policy makers and the public about the work of NHA and the promise of hydropower in the U.S. They also present an opportunity for NHA to amplify the efforts of our membership as they operate the largest renewable energy resource in the country and look to further expand its contributions.
But our audience size is widely outpaced by other renewable energy trade associations. The American Wind Energy Association has more than 23,000 Twitter followers, 40 times more than NHA; the Solar Energy Industry Association has more than 10 times our following. On Facebook, the nation's most visited website, the gap is even wider. AWEA and SEIA boast audiences 100 times and 23 times larger than our own, respectively. If only 5% of the estimated 300,000 employed by the hydropower industry connected with us on our social networks, we could increase our reach 4,000%.
Liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter is the first step to building our audience, but retweeting us and sharing our posts puts our messages before your audience, turning up the volume of the industry's collective voice.
To get engaged and learn more about NHA's public affairs and communications programs, contact Matt Nocella at firstname.lastname@example.org.