House subcommittee reviews two hydro development resolutions
The U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a legislative hearing in early March on two resolutions that would help spur hydroelectric development.
The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (House Resolution 678) and the Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act (H.R. 254) - both introduced to the 113th Congress in February - were assigned to committees for review before potentially being passed to the House for voting.
The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act is essentially a reintroduction of H.R. 2842 from this past congressional session, which would remove application of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) from conduit projects with capacities of 5 MW or less.
According to proponents of the bill, certain types of hydro projects should be exempted from NEPA compliance because Reclamation's infrastructure already has enough environmental checks in place. And because the projects would use existing Reclamation conduits, no new land would be disturbed.
Instead of NEPA, Reclamation's Power Resources Office would be the "lead office of small conduit hydropower policy and procedure-setting activities conducted," as per the bill.
Meanwhile, the Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act was passed by the House in 2012 as H.R. 460, although it died in the Senate when the 112th Congress was dissolved.
Now reintroduced as H.R. 254, the legislation would "authorize the Secretary of the Interior to facilitate the development of hydroelectric power on the Diamond Fork System of the Central Utah Project." If passed, the bill would allow for the installation of hydropower on the Diamond Fork System, which is a pipeline that moves water from Utah's Strawberry Reservoir to Utah and Salt Lake counties.
FERC updates land use fee schedule for hydro
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued an annual update to its fee schedule for occupation of federal lands by FERC-licensed hydroelectric projects.
In January, the commission issued a final rule (RM11-6) revising its formula for calculating government land use fees for FERC-licensed projects. FERC said the changes would increase the total amount collected by less than 1%, although some licensees would experience higher rates, and some lower, depending on the circumstances where a project is located.
Based on the new rules, FERC issued its annual update Feb. 27. The new fee schedule, to be updated annually, is based on a formula with the following components: a per-acre land value by county (or geographic area in Alaska and Puerto Rico); an "encumbrance factor"; a 5.27% rate of return that coverts the land value to a rental value; and an annual inflation adjustment. The encumbrance factor multiplies the land value by 50%, reflecting the degree to which project facilities hinder other uses of the land. Under the old formula, the encumbrance factor multiplier was 70%.
Under the new final rule, FERC said 2013 collections are estimated to be $10.27 million, compared with $8.22 million under the 1987 fee schedule.
It said it assesses annual charges for federal land use by 253 licenses held by 135 licensees. It said some of the 135 licensees might experience a one-time increase in their annual land use charge because rates had not been updated since 1987. After FERC collects the fees, they are allocated 12.5% to the U.S. Treasury, 50% to the federal reclamation fund, and 37.5% to the states in which the projects are located.
Obama makes nominations for government agencies
President Barack Obama submitted his nominations in early March for new heads of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Ernest Moniz would replace Steven Chu as the U.S. Secretary of Energy, following the announcement of Chu's resignation in February. Moniz has previous government experience, having served as DOE's Under Secretary of Energy from 1997 to 2001, in addition to a number of other positions during Obama and President Bill Clinton's tenures.
Speaking at a ceremony introducing the nominees, Obama called Moniz "another brilliant scientist" who "knows his way around the Department of Energy."
Meanwhile, Obama has selected Gina McCarthy to take over for former EPA head Lisa Jackson. McCarthy currently heads the EPA's air and radiation office, having previously worked to design renewable energy programs for Massachusetts and Connecticut. "As an EPA administrator, Gina has focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing," Obama said. "She's earned a reputation as a straight shooter."
MWH Global Chairman and CEO to share insight at HydroVision International
MWH Global Chairman and CEO Alan J. Krause will serve as a keynote speaker for HydroVision International, the world's largest hydroelectric power conference and exhibition, sharing his insight gained from decades of experience working in the global hydropower industry. The event will take place July 23-26 in Denver, Colo.
"The clean, reliable energy provided by hydropower is helping people in need around the world," Krause says. "I truly believe we are building a better world with hydropower."
Under Krause's leadership, MWH Global has increased its presence to more than 30 countries on six continents, with a focus on developing hydro resources in a responsible manner.
"Hydropower has been a part of the MWH history for nearly 100 years, allowing us to develop the experience needed to design and build sustainable projects," Krause says. "With the current stress on our environment and natural resources - especially water - a sustainable energy approach is critical."
Included in MWH's portfolio are contributions to China's Three Gorges, Pakistan's Ghazi Barotha and Kurram Tangi, Venezuela's Caruachi, Iceland's Karahnjukar, Ethiopia's Tekeze and Alaska's Susitna-Watana hydropower projects. The company has also provided design services for the Panama Canal extension project.
Krause joined MWH in 1997, when he merged his natural resources business, TerraMatrix, with what was then known as Montgomery Watson. He then played a significant role in the integration of Harza Engineering Co. with Montgomery Watson in 2001, forming MWH.
Since then, Krause has held numerous executive positions within the organization, including president of MWH's natural resources, industry and infrastructure sector. Krause was named president and chief operating officer in 2008 before succeeding president and CEO Robert B. Uhler in November 2011.
Krause's keynote address will take place at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, July 23. In his address, he will share his views about:
- Emerging ideas, themes, trends, and approaches in new project development throughout the world;
- Hydro-related business risks, rewards, changes, and outlook;
- Specific roles that politics and technology advances play in making hydro viable;
- Future role of ocean/tidal/stream power technology; and
- His "vision" for hydro's future.
"We're excited to be working with Mr. Krause to bring to HydroVision International attendees a comprehensive market overview report," says Marla Barnes, publisher of Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide magazines, the flagship media sponsors of HydroVision International. "Alan's insight and perspective on the global hydropower market, including facts and trends relevant to the industry-at-large, will help all of us better understand the critical issues affecting the business of hydroelectric power generation now and in the future."
For more information about the event, or to register as an attendee, visit www.hydroevent.com.
U.S. House passes hydropower energy policy with unanimous vote
America's hydroelectric power sector received a boost as House Resolution 267, also known as the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, received a unanimous 422-0 vote of approval before the U.S. House of Representatives in mid-February.
The legislation is essentially the same as H.R. 5892, which was a bipartisan energy policy designed to promote growth of mini hydro and in-conduit projects by streamlining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting process for low-impact proposals.
The Hydropower Regulatory Act will:
- Increase the small hydro exemption from 5 MW to 10 MW;
- Remove conduit projects under 5 MW from FERC jurisdiction;
- Increase the conduit exemption to 40 MW for all projects;
- Provide FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits beyond the initial three years; and
- Require FERC to examine a two-year licensing process for non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped-storage.
The bill received unanimous approval from the 112th Congress in July 2012, although it did not come to a Senate vote before the end of the past session. It was reintroduced to the 113th Congress in mid-January by Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., before passing the House Energy and Commerce Committee about a week later.
Its passage in the House made it the first piece of legislation approved by the 113th Congress.
Reclamation announces website on LOPP
The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation has developed a website designed to assist hydropower project customers, stakeholders and those interested in developing hydro under the Lease of Power Privilege (LOPP) process.
Reclamation said documents available on the site, at www.usbr.gov/power/lopp, include:
- The Directive and Standard that defines the hydropower project development process, responsibilities, timelines and charges;
- Flowcharts, examples and guidance documents;
- Current LOPP projects; and
- Guiding legislation.
The LOPP process requirements - which were finalized in September 2012 - give hydro developers "clear guidance and timelines, assign roles and responsibilities, set a standard methodology and identify potential charges for developers," Reclamation said.
A LOPP is used when Reclamation chooses to lease its right to develop hydropower at one of its facilities, assuming power development does not interfere with other authorized project purposes.