The Next Steps Forward for Hydropower

As I enter my new position as President of the National Hydropower Association (NHA), I can say it’s an exciting time to be in the industry. There do still exist many challenges in hydropower being recognized not only as a sound renewable energy technology but also as an important, domestic, non-carbon-producing resource with a strong role in the nation’s energy future. Despite the challenges, however, there are many reasons why the hydropower industry is more alive now than ever.

Much of the thanks goes to the NHA and its successful lobbying initiatives. Through NHA’s persistent efforts, the federal government finally recognized the need for more development by including hydropower in the Section 45 production tax credit (PTC) in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. My congratulations to Linda Church-Ciocci, the NHA board and leadership, and the NHA staff. This has been a major achievement. While enactment of relicensing and inclusion in the PTC were important gains for the hydropower industry, there are many challenges as well as opportunities that lie ahead. As President, I have several specific issues I hope to further during my tenure. Incremental Hydropower Development The Energy Policy Act of 2005 helps foster what I personally have been saying for years – “It is time to build more incremental hydropower in this country.” In order for hydropower to be taken seriously as part of the energy solution by federal legislators, the industry MUST band together and produce incremental megawatt hours. The Energy Policy Act presents some challenges for our industry. First, it does not provide sufficient time for hydropower producers to take full advantage of the PTC (new generation is required to be on line by January 1, 2008). There is not enough time to account for FERC license amendments, procurement of materials and construction schedules. A key NHA initiative during my presidency will be to advocate for an extension of this deadline so that we can install more incremental hydropower capacity, thus making a larger contribution to the nation’s energy solution. To those power owners trying to get as much on line by January 1, 2008, I say persevere! Consider these interesting industry facts: – A study released in January 2006 by the Idaho National Energy Laboratory reports that there is more than 30,000 megawatts of potential new hydropower (most small) at existing facilities and non-hydropower dams. – Only 3% of the approximately 80,000 dams in the United States produce electricity, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The point is that hydropower is clearly part of the solution for tomorrow’s clean energy needs. While the growth potential is real, far too few realize how much potential still exists, and far too many policymakers discount hydro as a result. Importance of R&D We also must do all we can to promote the industry’s advanced hydro turbine research and development initiatives. Simply stated, federal legislators need to go beyond just talking about how we must become less dependent on foreign oil, and more dependent on domestic renewable resources. Real, substantive action is needed. For instance, in 2005, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Hydro Turbine Research program budget was totally eliminated. Legislators need to understand that their words must become reality and that the advancement of new and innovative hydropower technology must be funded in order for the industry to thrive and prosper. Education and Promotion The Energy Policy Act also provides the hydropower industry with the opportunity to emphasize education. What better way to promote the hydropower industry than to produce a quarterly newsletter that publicizes the benefits of new and incremental hydropower projects that are under construction or have gone on line. The newsletter could be disseminated to stakeholders, politicians and environmental groups throughout the country. We all need to act as publicists for the industry. I feel passion for hydropower. Every chance I can, I talk to people that are involved in hydropower in some way – from local residents and regulators to legislators — about our projects, benefits of hydropower, and significant issues in which my company Brookfield Power is involved. Brookfield Power has a proactive public relations program that regularly promotes our good news to the communities in which we work, live and play. We have and continue to strive to spread news about how hydropower is greener than ever. I encourage the industry to be more proactive with its publicity. We need everyone in the industry to feel the passion! Recruitment of new people willing to take an active role within the industry, and in particular, within NHA, is significant to me and to the success of the hydropower industry’s most important national association. We need to continually recruit new people to become passionate members of NHA. New members bring novel ideas, fresh perspectives, innovative resources and an infusion of passion. Looking Ahead Others issues that will be in the forefront of NHA and its 2006 Board of Directors is the Endangered Species Act and the possible effect its reform might have on the industry; how states Renewable Portfolio Standards are progressing; and the building of non-partisan political alliances. Honestly, there are hundreds of issues I could tackle in my tenure as NHA president, and I wish I could. I will do the best I can to be a reasonable, yet passionate advocate for the betterment of hydropower. I know that I can count on industry members to do the same! About the author… David Youlen is vice president New York operations, Brookfield Power. He is located at Brookfield Power’s New York headquarters at 225 Greenfield Parkway, Suite 201, Liverpool, New York 13088, tel: (315) 413-2899, fax: (315) 461-8579, email:
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