Moeller: The time is now for hydropower
Commissioner Philip Moeller, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, urged the U.S. hydropower industry to get front and center in the debate over comprehensive energy policy on Capitol Hill. “No more Mr. Nice Guy,” Moeller recently told participants at Waterpower XVI, the world’s largest gathering of hydropower experts in 2009. “It’s up to us to make sure the public recognizes what hydropower has to offer.” As Congress considers legislation to reduce carbon emissions and increase the use of renewable energy, hydropower could play a starring role in emerging energy policies, Commissioner Moeller said. “The world won’t get to where it wants to go on carbon emissions without hydropower,” he said. To watch an interview with Commissioner Moeller, visit www.hydroworld.com; click on the HydroWorld Videos button.
Obama names Kelly and Norris to FERC
President Obama has renominated New Mexico Democrat Suedeen Kelly for a new five-year term on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). He also nominated Iowa Democrat John R. Norris to fill a seat vacated by the resignation of former FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher, a Republican. If confirmed, these nominations would establish a Democratic majority on the five-member commission. The Republicans on the panel are Philip Moeller of Washington and Marc Spitzer of Arizona. If approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Kelly’s term would expire June 30, 2014. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is considering the nomination of Norris to the commission. If he is approved by the Senate, his term would expire June 30, 2013.
Construction begins on Ohio River hydro plant
Federal, state, and local officials gathered in early August to break ground on American Municipal Power’s hydroelectric plant at the Cannelton Locks and Dam. The 84-MW project is the first of five run-of-the-river hydro plants AMP plans to build on the Ohio River. Altogether, the five plants will be able to generate more than 350 MW of renewable power. Full details on this hydroelectric development can be found in the “Industry News” department in this issue.
DOE providing loan guarantees for hydropower
Up to $30 billion in loan guarantees will be made available to companies investing in new renewable energy projects, including hydropower, under plans announced by the Obama Administration. Companies had 45 days from July 29 to apply for the loan guarantees, the U.S. Department of Energy said. The guarantees are designed to help companies secure private financing for hydropower, wind, solar, and biomass projects. Projects that improve the reliability, efficiency, and security of the nation’s electricity grid also are eligible for loan guarantees under the program. “This administration has set a goal of doubling renewable electricity generation over the next three years,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “To achieve that goal, we need to accelerate renewable project development by ensuring access to capital for advanced technology projects.” The loan guarantees will be funded in part by $8.5 billion from the DOE’s 2009 spending budget and $3.25 billion from the economic stimulus package approved earlier this year. The guarantees will help companies obtain private financing that would otherwise be hard to get in these tough economic times, DOE said.
Hydro plants eligible for stimulus payments
Companies that build and place into service renewable energy facilities could receive up to $3 billion in direct payments in lieu of tax credits under a program announced July 31, 2009, by the U.S. departments of Energy and Treasury. The money will be allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and will be distributed to about 5,000 renewable energy facilities, including hydropower, wind, and solar. Both agencies are now accepting applications. Eligible facilities must be placed into service in 2009 or 2010. If construction of the facility begins in 2009 or 2010, the facility must begin commercial production by the end of 2012 (for wind), 2013 (for hydro, biomass, and geothermal), or 2016 (for solar). The deadline to apply is Oct. 1, 2011. “This program will play a major role in encouraging private sector capital to invest in clean energy development, creating new jobs that can’t be outsourced,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “It is an investment that will continue to help our economy grow and ensure advancement of clean and renewable energy.” Interested companies can review the application at http://www.treas.gov/recovery/1603.shtml.
Hydropower equipment manufacturers eligible for tax credits
Up to $2.3 billion in tax credits will be awarded to manufacturers of equipment used in the production of clean energy under a program administered by the U.S. departments of Energy and Treasury. The tax credits are available for two years or until the cap is reached, according to the program. The funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The program provides an investment tax credit of 30 percent for manufacturing facilities that produce equipment for clean energy production, including hydropower. “These tax credits will help create thousands of high-quality manufacturing jobs in some of the highest growth segments of the economy,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. It’s the latest in a series of government incentives for renewable energy production in the United States.
Proposed Quebec water diversion includes 11 hydro plants
A report by an independent institute proposes diverting flood waters from three northern rivers in the Canadian province of Quebec to generate 14 terawatt-hours annually at 11 hydro plants and to sell 25 billion cubic meters of water each year. The so-called Northern Waters project is proposed in an economic note by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research and education organization. MEI describes itself as “suggesting reforms for wealth creation based on market mechanisms.” Full details on this report can be found in the “Canadian News” department in this issue.
Hydropower production up 8 percent this year
Americans consumed more renewable energy than nuclear power, according to a report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy. The latest issue of EIA’s “Monthly Energy Review” showed that renewable energy, including hydropower, accounted for 11.1 percent of domestic energy production. Nuclear power accounted for 10.4 percent. During the first four months of 2009, renewable energy production was 6 percent higher compared with the same period in 2008, according the report. Hydropower led the way, accounting for 34.6 percent of U.S. renewable energy production. Wood wastes comprised 31.2 percent of renewable production, biofuels 19 percent, wind 9.3 percent, geothermal 4.7 percent, and solar 1.2 percent. Hydropower production grew by 8.2 percent during the first four months of 2009, the report showed. Wind accounted for the biggest increase in renewable energy production, increasing 34.5 percent. Solar power production remained the same while power from wood wastes fell 4.9 percent. Total U.S. energy production, however, dropped 5.7 percent through April, led almost entirely by declines in fossil fuel production, the report showed.
Obama administration granted more time for salmon settlement
The Obama administration continues to work toward settling a lawsuit over a government plan that pits salmon restoration against hydropower in the Northwest. At the request of Coby Howell, an attorney for the NOAA Fisheries Service, U.S. District Judge James Redden gave the administration an extension to finalize its position on the current plan for salmon restoration, a plan conceived by the former Bush administration. Environmentalists, fishermen, and the state of Oregon are suing the federal government, claiming salmon populations won’t recover without removing four hydroelectric projects on the lower Snake River in Washington. In a letter to Judge Redden, Howell said the Obama administration needs more time to explain its position to the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. “We would like to discuss and explain our process and position on the (biological opinion) with all of the parties before formally presenting our position to the court,” Howell wrote.
Cap-and-Trade bill may die in Senate
Don’t expect Congress to pass a national cap-and-trade system this year, said Linda Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association. Speaking to participants at the Waterpower XVI conference and exhibition, the largest gathering of hydro professionals in the world in 2009, Ciocci pointed to the narrow passage of the climate change bill (HR 2454) in the House. The measure won approval by a vote of 219-212. “They needed 218 votes. They got 219,” Ciocci said. “You can see the contentiousness with this issue. We expect to have the same issues as this legislation moves through the Senate.” At issue is the cost to consumers. Some lawmakers contend the House bill would lead to a substantial increase in electricity bills amid an economic recession. Ciocci said the bill will likely fail because a 60-vote majority is required to move the legislation to a vote in the Senate. “I don’t think you’re going to see a climate bill passed by Congress this year because I don’t think they’re going to get to that 60-vote level,” Ciocci said. However, lawmakers in both chambers are expected to reach an agreement on a renewable portfolio standard, a measure that would require electric utilities to get a certain amount of their power from renewable resources, including hydropower, Ciocci said. Under the House measure, any hydropower generation built after 1988 would count toward whatever renewable standard Congress adopts.
Poll touts hydropower benefits
A poll of 2,177 people found that 78 percent of Americans believe the benefits of hydropower outweigh any of the risks. According to the poll by Harris Interactive, at least two-thirds of Americans believe the benefits of hydropower, wind power and natural gas outweigh the risks. The same poll showed that 42 percent of Americans believe the risks of using coal outweigh the benefits, while 36 percent believe the benefits outweigh the risks and 22 weren’t sure. Forty-four percent of Americans said the benefits of using nuclear power outweigh the risks while 34 percent said the risks outweigh the benefits. However, very few people (9 percent) considered themselves to be very knowledgeable about the various sources of electricity. What’s more, only 21 percent said they were very interested in staying informed about new developments in sources of electrical power, while 53 percent said they were fairly interested in keeping up to date. Meanwhile, Congress is debating a comprehensive energy bill that will attempt the balance the need to meet rising demand and a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the increased use of renewable resources. “Much work is needed by Congress, energy companies and communities to engage consumers in the dialogue around this new energy economy,” the report stated.