WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation introduced this week could allow the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to use hydropower revenue to upgrade the efficiency of dozens of its generating sites.
The bill, being called the “Hydro 2.0 Act,” was introduced by Natural Resources Democratic Ranking Member Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Subcommittee on Water and Power Ranking Member Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.).
“The wildlife that swim and live in our rivers have evolved over millennia to become highly efficient in the water’s currents. It’s time that the same dams that create electric power from those waters evolve to become more efficient with the water, too,” Markey says. “The bill we’re introducing today will empower the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure our dams work smarter, not harder to produce electricity.”
The legislation would give Reclamation the authority to develop power at existing projects through the Lease of Power Privilege process.
According to Markey’s office, “It would also provide a funding mechanism to pay the capital costs associated with power, all for efficiencies at the existing project, and authorize funds for non-reimbursable purposes, including environmental mitigation.”
Reclamation estimates that even a 1% efficiency improvement across its generating sites could produce an additional 16.2 MW of power, which could generate about US$5.7 million annually.
“Whether it’s our water systems or hydropower projects, efficiency improvements are the most cost effective water and power supply,” says Napolitano. “The ability to make our existing hydropower systems more efficient, mitigate for environmental impacts caused by hydropower, while paying down the debt associated with power, is a win-win-win for everyone.”
Reclamation is the nation’s second-largest producer of hydroelectric power, with more than 15,000 MW generated across 60 hydropower sites.