Senate Energy Committee passes hydroelectric bills to full Senate for voting
Three pieces of hydroelectric power legislation received unanimous approval from the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in early May, positioning them for voting in the full Senate. Included on the committee's docket were:
- Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (House Resolution 267);
- Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013 (Senate Bill 545); and
- Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678, S.B. 306).
Support for the bills has been strong from both parties, reflecting a commitment to include hydroelectricity as part of President Barack Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy plan.
"Hydro is back," committee chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D.-Ore., said during the NHA's Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., last month. "In fact, hydro is way back."
Previous versions of each of the three bills were passed to the Senate during the past legislative session, although none came to voting before the 112th Congress was dissolved.
FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff resigns
Chairman John Wellinghoff has submitted his resignation from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to President Barack Obama in late May. The White House has asked Wellinghoff to continue in office and continue serving as chairman until a successor can be nominated and confirmed by the Senate. Wellinghoff's term was scheduled to expire June 30.
Wellinghoff has been a member of the commission since 2006 and was designated chairman in 2009. During his tenure, Wellinghoff established an Office of Energy Policy and Innovation to address environmental and energy policies.
The chairman committed FERC to four fundamental responsibilities: developing needed energy infrastructure, fostering competitive energy markets that produce just and reasonable rates, overseeing reliability standards, and effectively enforcing both market and reliability rules. Under Wellinghoff's leadership, FERC advanced hydropower in a number of areas, including hydrokinetic energy, small hydropower and pumped storage as support for variable renewables and grid integrity.
Before joining FERC, Wellinghoff was a lawyer in private practice, focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency, distributed generation and the renewable energy portfolio process.
Colorado agency to boost small hydro development
The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) is hoping to create a "small hydropower roadmap" for the state's agriculture through its Advancing Colorado's Renewable Energy (ACRE) program. ACRE, whose purpose is to "promote the feasibility and development of agricultural energy-related projects," has helped fund research and development projects for a number of renewable energy sources.
One emphasis this year will be small hydropower. "In 2013, CDA will focus ACRE resources in just a few energy themes, including small hydropower applications," said CDA Conservation Services Division Director Eric Lane.
CDA said the Applegate Group and Telluride Energy have received ACRE grants totaling more than US$86,500 to "collect, aggregate and analyze market research data on the opportunities, costs, benefits and other barriers to the application and deployment of small hydropower technologies in agricultural operations throughout the state."
"The majority of hydropower in Colorado was installed prior to 1990, with very few installations in the last 20 years," Telluride Energy CEO Kurt Johnson said. "Understanding which small hydro opportunities have been developed and why some opportunities are not being developed is critical information for identifying barriers and recommending achievable projects."
The final report and recommendations are expected by the end of the year, after which CDA said it will use the data to focus ACRE resources on project development.
Senate confirms Moniz, President's Secretary of Energy nominee
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved nominee Ernest Moniz as the nation's new Secretary of Energy with a 97-0 vote in favor May 16. Moniz was nominated by President Barack Obama in March after former Secretary Steven Chu announced his plan to leave the Department of Energy in February. Chu served his last day on April 22 and plans to return to his post as a professor at Stanford University in California.
Moniz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, was confirmed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in April, although the Senate vote had been delayed by Sen. Lindseey Graham (R.-S.C.), who was reportedly protesting Obama's plan to cut about US$200 million from a South Carolina mixed oxide fuel processing facility.
FERC licenses three projects, reports 62-MW Rainbow expansion on line
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued two original hydropower licenses, relicensed a third project, and reported the 62-MW Rainbow expansion plant went on line in Montana during April.
The Energy Infrastructure Update for April, compiled by FERC's Office of Energy Projects, also included receiving three license applications and issuing a license amendment allowing construction of a new hydro powerhouse in New York.
The commission issued licenses to two project applicants:
- William Arkoosh, 1.23-MW Little Wood River Ranch 2 project proposed for the Little Wood River in Lincoln County, Idaho; and
- Carbon Zero LLC, 360-kW Vermont Tissue Mill project to be built at the Vermont Tissue Mill Dam on the Walloomsac River in Bennington, Vt. Carbon Zero originally filed for a 5-MW (maximum) exemption from licensing for the project.
FERC also relicensed the 112-year-old Stuyvesant Falls project on New York's Kinderhook Creek. The relicense authorizes applicants Stuyvesant, N.Y., and Albany Engineering Corp. to increase total project capacity to 4.32 MW from 2.8 MW in an eight-year rehabilitation program.
And FERC reported that licensee PPL Montana brought the 62-MW Rainbow plant expansion on line during April on the Missouri River in Montana. The Rainbow expansion project includes a new powerhouse that replaces the original 35-MW Rainbow plant, a development of the eight-powerhouse, 334.29-MW Missouri-Madison project. The 3.5-year construction project cost $209 million.
The commission also issued an order amending the license of the 10-MW Rio project on New York's Mongaup River, allowing licensee Eagle Creek Hydropower LLC to construct a new powerhouse with a single turbine-generator, increasing total capacity to 10.8 MW.
The April 2013 Energy Infrastructure Update may be obtained online at www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/apr-energy-infrastructure.pdf.
Plan approved to import hydroelectric power from Quebec to New York City
The New York State Public Service Commission approved a plan on April 18 that will bring 1,000 MW of hydroelectric power from the Canadian province of Quebec to New York City.
The $2 billion project - owned by Champlain Hudson Power Express Inc. and CHPA Properties Inc. - involves the construction and operation of the Champlain Hudson Power Express, which would consist of two wires stretched mostly underwater beneath Lake Champlain and the Hudson, Harlem and East rivers. The direct current line would run 333 miles to Queens, where it would be converted to alternating current.
Supporters say the plan will bring clean, cheaper hydropower to the region, reducing reliance on coal and other generating technologies. Critics say importing power from Canada will reduce local power sales and thus jobs in the area.
A critical factor in the commission's decision to approve the project is the fact that the financial risk to ratepayers is minimized because ratepayers will not be required to assume the financial risks to build the project, according to a press release.
Project developers still need to obtain several federal permits and secure private financing.
HydroVision International named to Fastest 50 for second year
HydroVision International - the world's largest event dedicated to the hydroelectric industry - has again been recognized by Trade Show Executive as one of the fastest-growing tradeshows in the U.S. This marks the second consecutive year HydroVision International has been honored as a recipient of Trade Show Executive's "Fastest 50" award, which is determined based on the event's net square feet of exhibit space sold and number of participating exhibitors.
"We appreciate Trade Show Executive's continued recognition of this important event," said Marla Barnes, publisher of PennWell Corporation's Hydro Group. "This is an exciting time for the hydroelectric industry - both in the U.S. and abroad - and the event's continued success reflects both the strength of the industry and the companies that serve it."
HydroVision International 2012, held in Louisville, Ky., drew more than 3,000 attendees from more than 40 countries and featured 320 exhibitors. This year's conference and exhibition takes place in Denver, Colo., and looks to be even better, Barnes said. "HydroVision International 2013 offers something for everyone involved in or with the hydro industry," she said. "In addition to the extensive conference program, the event features a huge exhibition with more than 300 companies displaying the best products and services offered in the industry."
HydroVision International 2013 takes place July 23-26, 2013, in the Colorado Convention Center. For more information, visit www.hydroevent.com.
Petition could add more hydroelectric power to state's definition of renewable energy
A measure to expand Oregon's definition of "renewable energy" to include more hydroelectric power could appear before the state's voters next year if a petition urging its consideration receives about 87,000 signatures by July 3, 2014. State Representative Greg Smith was the first person to sign the petition.
The legislation, called the Affordable Renewable Energy Act, would modify hydropower's role in Oregon's renewable standard by allowing all hydroelectric plants completed after Jan. 1, 1995, to be counted amongst the state's portfolio. Currently, only hydropower projects that were in operation before that date are considered "renewable" sources.
Hydroelectric plants are the top source of power in Oregon, where 40% of the state's energy comes from hydro projects. State law requires large utilities to generate at least 25% of their power from renewable sources by 2025.