Breaking News: Hydro Currents

NHA drafts legislation to boost hydro development

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) released draft legislation entitled “Hydropower Renewable Energy and Jobs Act of 2010,” telling Hydro Review the bill is designed to significantly boost hydro development and spur job growth in the U.S.

“The purpose of the bill is to raise the profile of hydropower priorities and promote the resource’s many benefits as action moves ahead in Congress on a potential energy and or climate bill,” Jeffrey Leahey, senior manager of government and legal affairs for NHA, said in an interview.

The draft legislation contains energy policy and tax provisions designed to incentivize investment in hydropower, NHA said.

Increasing capacity at existing hydro projects, powering non-powered dams, and exploring new development options in pumped-storage hydropower and hydrokinetic projects are backed by the draft legislation.

A recent study by Navigant Consulting Inc. estimates the hydropower industry could add 60,000 MW of new capacity by 2025. Up to 700,000 jobs could be created by 2025 if the potential for new capacity is met, the study shows.

Linda Church Ciocci, NHA executive director, said: “NHA is working to bust the myth that the U.S. hydropower potential is tapped out. The recent study by Navigant Consulting demonstrates that there is a significant growth opportunity for hydropower, particularly by maximizing existing infrastructure and pursuing pumped storage and new ocean, tidal and instream hydrokinetic technologies.”

The NHA bill incorporates many policies already supported by NHA, as well as some new proposals, including a 2-year licensing process for “minimal impact” hydro projects.

Upgrades planned by Bonneville Power Administration

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) said it will spend about $2 billion in federal stimulus dollars to upgrade aging infrastructure at hydropower projects, enhance transmission lines, and restore fish populations.

BPA identified up to $2 billion in projects for which it will use funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. BPA has spent at least $174.4 million on these projects, which will enhance transmission and hydro system infrastructure, create hundreds of new jobs, implement energy efficiency, and construct fish hatcheries.

The projects identified for Recovery Act funding are under development, scheduled to be initiated, or undergoing environmental review in the next two years.

The measure increased the amount of money BPA can borrow from the U.S. Treasury. BPA must repay the money to the U.S. Treasury with interest.

BC Clean Energy Act calls for more hydropower

British Columbia announced a new clean energy plan that calls for increased efficiency and an increase in the amount of energy the province gets from hydropower and other renewable energy resources.

British Columbia, under the new act, decreed that 93 percent of its electricity must come from clean or renewable sources, up from 90 percent.

The British Columbia Utility Commission also will be required to ensure “appropriate rates” are set to advance the new energy policy.

“Our goal is to build on our unique competitive advantages with record investments in our historic ‘two rivers’ public power system and with new clean and renewable electricity investments and partnerships,” said Premier Gordon Campbell. “We want British Columbia to become a leading North American supplier of clean, reliable, low-carbon electricity and technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while strengthening our economy in every region.”

The Clean Energy Act builds on the work of the Green Energy Advisory Task Force, appointed in November 2009 to provide insights and recommendations on a comprehensive strategy to encourage clean energy development.

Taum Sauk resumes operation after reservoir reconstruction

The 440-MW Taum Sauk hydroelectric plant near Lesterville, Mo., is generating electricity and fully functioning following AmerenUE’s unveiling of a new $490 million, 1.5 billion gallon reservoir.

The Taum Sauk pumped-storage hydro project had been out of service since its upper reservoir’s mountaintop ring dam breached on Dec. 14, 2005, releasing 1.4 billion gallons of water down the Black River, injuring nine people and damaging property, including Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park.

The reconstruction of Taum Sauk included establishing one of the nation’s most rigorous dam-safety programs and the creation of the largest roller-compacted concrete dam in North America, said Ameren Corp.

The new reservoir measures almost a mile around and is made of crushed rock from the old structure. The 3.2 million cubic yards of concrete used during construction is barely less than the volume used to build Hoover Dam. The reservoir has 100-foot-high concrete walls.

The new structure has key safety features such as a higher dam crest to prevent overflowing, video monitoring of the upper reservoir, and the use of roller-compacted concrete for its construction.

U.S. awards contract for final phase of Red Bluff fish passage project

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region awarded a $67 million contract under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for Phase II of the Red Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project.

With this latest award, Reclamation is initiating the final construction phase of the project. The $67 million award was issued to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure of Fairfield, Calif., for constructing a 1,118-foot-long fish screen, building a pumping station, installing nine pumps and motors, and building an electrical switchyard.

Construction of the project is expected to begin in the summer of 2010, with completion anticipated in 2012.

Once completed, the facility will provide for improved fish passage through the existing Red Bluff Diversion Dam. The new diversion facility will be on the Sacramento River, about a mile upstream of the dam and two miles southeast of Red Bluff, Calif.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor broke ground at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam in March 2010 to begin the Fish Passage Improvement Project under previously announced ARRA funding.

The project will be completed in multi-phases by Reclamation, the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, and the state of California. The total project cost is estimated at $230 million and is being paid for partially by the $109 million in ARRA money.

Montana Supreme Court orders PPL to pay rent

PPL Montana is evaluating its options for dealing with a Montana Supreme Court order that the utility pay the state for the use of the riverbeds where PPL dams sit.

PPL Montana was ordered by the Montana Supreme Court to pay the state $40 million in current and past rent for the use of riverbeds where the utility’s hydroelectric projects are located.

The court found that the land under the dams is like any other public land that is rented out for purposes such as grazing cattle or drilling for oil.

A PPL spokesman said the utility’s options could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

PPL Montana, a unit of PPL Corp., said the decision could impact other river users, but the high court ruled that farmers and ranchers who use riverbeds for irrigation are not under the same rental obligations as power companies.

A state law says court-ordered judgments accrue interest at a rate of 10 percent a year from the original decision. The rent has been accruing since a district court order dating back to 2008.

The Montana Supreme Court ruling said the company would also owe for future rent, which will be determined by the state Land Board.

Department of Energy announces grants for hydropower

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will invest more than $200 million over the next five years in renewable energy development, including marine and hydrokinetic technologies.

The grants are intended to help renewable energy overcome technical barriers and demonstrate new technologies.

DOE said $39 million will be provided over the next four years for research and development in marine and hydrokinetic energy technology areas.

American Power Act lacks renewable portfolio standard

Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., released the details of their energy and climate change legislation. The measure did not include a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which the industry has been lobbying for.

Included is a statement from Congress on the importance of large-scale deployment and accelerated progress in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, direction for how the allowances distributed to states and Indian tribes should be used for promoting renewable energy and efficiency programs, and a statement supporting voluntary renewable markets.

National Hydropower Association Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said hydropower should be given a starring role in the nation’s energy plan.

“Accounting for two-thirds of the country’s current renewable electricity generation, hydropower must continue to play a central role in creating a clean energy economy,” Ciocci said.

President Obama’s proposal called for a 25-percent RPS by 2025, 100 percent new building efficiency by 2030, and the phase-out of traditional incandescents by 2014.

The Waxman/Markey bill mandated a 15-percent RPS with an added 5 percent efficiency by 2020, 75 percent new building efficiency by 2030, and appliance and lighting efficiency standards.

The Kerry/Lieberman bill mandates that utilities, starting in 2013 and other industries in 2016, must participate in a cap and trade system that places a price on carbon.

The goal for these measures is to reduce economy-wide global warming pollution to 95.25 percent of 2005 levels by 2013, 83 percent by 2020, 58 percent by 2030, and 17 percent by 2050.

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