Hydropower Answers Blackout Call

In response to the recent northeast blackout, the National Hydropower Association (NHA) highlighted the importance of hydropower to the U.S. electricity grid and called on the U.S. Congress to adopt policies to ensure hydropower’s viability and to encourage upgrades to maximize the nation’s existing hydropower infrastructure.

Washington, D.C. – August 28, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “The importance of hydropower to our nation’s electricity grid was again confirmed during last week’s massive blackout,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of NHA. “As we learned from several officials, hydropower projects in upstate New York and several other states continued to run, leading the way to restoring power to millions of Americans.” During the Thursday, 14, blackout, affecting an estimated 50 million people from New York City to Michigan, hydropower facilities were the first to be put into service to initiate grid stability and restore power, said the organization. Hydropower’s unique operational characteristics allow it to generate power almost immediately while other sources can take hours to days to come back into service. As during the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965, when hydropower utilized its blackstart capability to rapidly restore service, hydropower again came to the rescue. Within six hours of the start of the blackout, the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) hydropower generation was back online providing New York with 3,794 MW of energy, close to 45 percent of the state’s total electricity load. Two projects, Niagara and St. Lawrence-FDR, operated continuously throughout the blackout. The NHA said that concerns over reliability and “the failure to recognize the importance of hydropower under just such circumstances” prompted the organization to caution federal policymakers not to take hydro’s important role for granted. In its 2001 report, Keeping the Lights on With Hydropower, NHA told policymakers that “a lack of new investments in generation and transmission capacityýhave raised concerns about the security and adequacy of the system.” The report focuses on the valuable contributions hydropower makes to grid security, including its role in past blackouts. Noting that “system operators rely on hydropower’s speed and flexibility to meet moment-by-moment fluctuations in electric power demand and to restore service after a blackout,” the report cautioned that hydropower’s capacity, key to securing the grid, was declining and suggested that the nation could shore up its unacceptable reliability margins through additional investments in hydropower. “Nationally 19,626 MW of potential hydropower, if developed, would raise predicted capacity margins by 16 percent, surpassing levels that exist today,” states the report. In the New York/New England region, the report cited 1,766 MW of potential power that could raise the capacity margin by 8 percent. The Midwest region could be increased by 11.17 percent. “But little of this clean, natural energy has been or will be developed, and a large portion of the hydropower in operation today is at risk, due to national policy disincentives,” the NHA said. “Unworkable licensing policies and the failure to recognize hydropower in renewable energy incentives have held Congress’s attention for years, but have unfortunately gone unresolved.” “As Congress prepares to reconcile differences between competing comprehensive energy bills, it is clear that issues impacting the hydropower resource must be resolved so that Americans can continue to enjoy the many benefits of clean, reliable hydropower,” said Ciocci. “It is time for us to better recognize and better value hydropower in our energy policies, including its unique and indispensable ability to help resolve serious situations such as last week’s blackout. We are happy to work with Congress to that end,” Ciocci concluded. Hydropower is the nation’s leading renewable energy resource in terms of installed capacity, accounting for about ten percent of America’s energy, according to the NHA. The organization also stressed that in addition to offering emissions-free renewable energy, hydro also provides many public benefits including water supply, vast recreational opportunities, flood control and irrigation.
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