Report analyzes hydro’s treatment in clean energy policies, offers strategies for reducing barriers


A new report by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) analyzes state policies across the U.S. to review eligibility criteria and the role hydropower is playing to help states meet clean energy goals. The report, The Role of Hydropower in State Clean Energy Policy, finds that while hydropower is an eligible resource in all state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), it is also limited. Pumped hydropower energy storage (PHES) also is largely excluded from state renewable energy policies, including energy storage mandates and targets.

A study of New England’s RPS markets, based on data provided by Sustainable Energy Advantage, reveals that hydropower facilities are generally only eligible for the less remunerative classes of the RPSs. Some hydropower facilities can participate in more valuable new/growth classes alongside other qualifying renewable but must meet environmental criteria.

Hydropower often faces challenges in its inclusion in state renewable energy policies, including RPS restrictions based on system size and in-service date and new resource solicitation periods and contract terms that are too short to accommodate new pumped storage hydropower. Performance incentives, loan guarantees and streamlined permitting can help level the playing field, the report says.

CESA’s report is broken into three sections:

1) Hydropower in state renewable portfolio standards: This section highlights how hydropower qualifies for and participates in state RPS programs and identifies key takeaways and high-level strategies for maximizing hydropower’s benefits.

2) Hydropower’s participation and opportunities in New England RPS markets: This section takes a close look at hydropower in New England’s RPS markets and how each state’s RPS eligibility criteria affect hydropower’s participation.

3) Pumped hydropower in state RPS mandates and energy storage policies: This section explores PHES and discusses why state policies and programs often overlook the technology. It highlights PHES eligibility in RPS programs and energy storage mandates and targets, offering policy and regulatory approaches that open opportunities for PHES participation.

The report was prepared by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“This comprehensive report on hydropower’s eligibility in clean energy policies and programs is a new and much-needed analysis that explains hydropower’s eligibility and participation in renewable and clean energy markets,” says Rebecca O’Neil, program manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“As states adopt 100% clean energy mandates, they could also consider how new and sustainable hydropower and pumped storage projects could help meet their ambitious carbon-free goals,” says report author Val Stori.

Read the full report here.
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