Hydropower, Storage

Small-Scale Hydropower Bill Introduced in Congress

During a recent Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee hearing on hydropower, Congressman Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) introduced the Small-Scale Hydropower Enhancement Act (H.R. 5922). The bill is designed to encourage and promote efforts to produce more hydropower from smaller sources.

Federal policies imposing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting rules have effectively stifled advancements and innovation in the small hydropower field, a press release from Smith’s office states.

Smith said: “One-size-fits-all federal regulations make small scale hydropower projects throughout the country financially prohibitive by imposing unnecessary and outdated rules. My bill would help stimulate the economy of rural America, empower local irrigation districts to generate revenue and decrease reliance on fossil fuels – all at no cost to the taxpayer.”

Smith’s bill would exempt any conduit-type hydropower project generating less than one and a half megawatt from FERC jurisdiction. The bill also would require the Bureau of Reclamation to examine its facilities for more conduit generation opportunities using existing funding.

Smith’s bill follows other recent hydropower-related developments in Washington, including the recent introduction of legislation aimed at boosting hydro production.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, recently introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the production of electricity from renewable hydropower and creating jobs in America’s energy sector. The Hydropower Improvement Act and the Hydropower Renewable Energy Development Act would boost federal support for hydropower projects.

The Hydropower Improvement Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash; Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash; and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, aims to increase the capacity of our nation’s hydropower sources to generate clean, renewable electricity by up to 75,000 megawatts.

The legislation establishes a competitive grants program and directs the Department of Energy to produce and implement a plan for the research, development and demonstration of increased hydropower capacity. The bill also gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority to streamline the permitting and review process for hydropower projects, and calls for studies on pumped-storage sites and the potential for development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities.