Hydropower Wants to be Part of the California Solution

The hydroelectric lobby in the United States wants to supply energy for the state of California.

WASHINGTON, DC – “Hydropower generation is a significant piece of the puzzle for restoring California’s electric grid to good health,” says Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association.”While the government can’t make it rain, it can get more electricity from existing western water resources, while continuing to protect the environment.” As the Senate examines the region’s power crisis, she urged Congress and the Bush Administration to pass hydropower licensing reform legislation and to quickly create incentives for new hydroelectric capacity that can be gained through efficiency upgrades or by adding turbines to existing dams. “The long-term solution to the western region’s power supply problem includes the development of clean, renewable and reliable hydropower generation,” she explains. “For too many years, the hydro resource has been allowed to decline, losing significant capacity during relicensing with no new generation to replace it.” “It’s time to correct the energy policy infrastructure that has so jeopardized California, and potentially the rest of the nation, and deal with the issues surrounding the nation’s leading renewable resource.” NHA says 45 percent of hydro capacity in California, and 73 percent of northwest capacity face relicensing in the next 15 years. Excessive costs, delays and conflicting mandates may force the retirement of 1,200 MW of generation capacity. If changes are made to the process and there are proper financial incentives, 8,800 MW of new capacity could be developed without building a single new dam. “It’s a stark choice,” says Ciocci. “The California electricity crisis has given us a taste of the economic dislocation and human suffering that results from a failing energy policy. We must keep our eye on the ball and ensure America has abundant, reliable and inexpensive sources of power generation: We must promote environmentally sound hydropower development.” Despite emergency alerts and pending water shortages, hydroelectric operators in the region continue to exercise good river stewardship practices, protecting fisheries and recreational activities as stipulated by their federal operating licenses, she adds. “Project owners in California have provided extraordinary river stewardship under difficult conditions,” she concludes. “At this time, we know of no licensee who has sought to generate more power by reducing minimum flows or by lowering lake levels, despite the severe electricity shortages. The licensees have performed wonderfully in upholding the balance between protecting natural resources and providing electricity.” “Should the federal or state authorities demand more power from hydroelectric operations, federal regulators should clarify emergency provisions contained in many licenses that permit variances under limited conditions,” adds Ciocci. “The public interest is paramount in the operation of these projects, and a particular balance between energy and all the other values of a project, including environmental ones, must be achieved.”