Breaking News: Hydrocurrents

New legislation to increase Massachusetts’ renewable development

A bill passed in early August by the Massachusetts Legislature will help develop hydroelectric power within the state. The legislation, Senate Bill 2395 – or officially, An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity in the Commonwealth – will increase the amount of new renewable energy that would qualify for economically favorable treatment by Massachusetts utilities.

With regard to hydro, the bill increases the size of hydropower projects that qualify as “renewable energy generating sources” under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The act increases the maximum allowable size for RPS Class I financial incentives from 25 to 30 MW and for RPS Class II benefits from 5 to 7.5 MW.

Measures for wind, solar and other forms of renewable generation are also included in the legislation.

Canada, U.S. to examine Columbia River Treaty

Regulators from the U.S. and Canada are reviewing an international agreement that has stood for almost 50 years. The Columbia River Treaty, created in 1964, established how groups on both sides of the U.S./Canada border developed hydropower along the 1,200-mile-long river.

As a result of the treaty, British Columbia constructed three storage dams and Montana constructed one. These were used to regulate flow to areas downstream along the Columbia River and also to increase hydroelectric production. In return for its part in the plan, Canada receives half the gains from downstream power production.

And while the agreement continues to be hailed as a model for international cooperation, several modern concerns have prompted calls for revisions.

Chief amongst the measures missing from the 1964 accord are provisions for the protection of endangered salmon, issues pertaining to climate change, and secondary river uses like recreation and irrigation. Considerations for indigenous Northwest tribes and native groups are also absent from the original treaty.

The Columbia River Treaty doesn’t have an expiration date, but either country can cancel most of its provisions after September 2024 with a minimum 10-year notice, meaning treaty talks could begin in 2014.

The treaty is being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration, alongside 15 Northwest tribes and several state and federal agencies. Officials say they will make a recommendation to the U.S. State Department this fall.

U.S. House passes Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act

The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012 passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July with a unanimous, bipartisan 372-0 vote.

The bill – officially known as House Resolution 5892 – would increase the development of small hydropower and conduit projects by directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study the feasibility of a streamlined two-year permitting process.

“The future of American energy independence depends on the development of an ‘all of the above’ energy approach, and I’m proud that hydro is finally on its way to being part of it,” says Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who co-authored the legislation.

The bill’s other author, Representative Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), says it will also create a number of employment opportunities. “This legislation will expand renewable and affordable hydropower and create good jobs for American families,” DeGette says. “Together, the House has continued the bipartisan spirit in which the act was created – to help get Americans back to work and take a step forward in our nation’s clean energy leadership.”

The bill must now go before the U.S. Senate.

FERC, ocean agency revise guide on OCS hydrokinetics

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have issued revised guidelines for development of marine hydrokinetic projects on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

The agencies announced the revised guidelines in July at the HydroVision International conference in Louisville, Ky. They replace guidelines that were issued in 2009 by FERC and BOEM’s predecessor, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service.

Because the agencies share jurisdictional responsibilities for offshore energy development, they issued the guidance to marine hydrokinetic energy developers interested in pursuing technology testing and commercial development activities on the OCS. They said the revisions give further clarity for the regulatory process and facilitate a more efficient process to authorize wave and ocean current energy research and testing.

“We will continue to work closely with FERC to provide a clearly defined path forward for the marine hydrokinetic industry in support of the administration’s ‘All of the Above’ energy strategy,” BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau said.

“FERC is committed to improving the tools and information we provide to those interested in developing hydrokinetic technologies in the U.S. as we gain valuable experience,” Director Jeff Wright of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects added.

The guidelines are designed to provide information to applicants and stakeholders about the respective responsibilities of each agency and how to best navigate the process of obtaining a marine hydrokinetic lease and license on the OCS. They cover provisions for obtaining leases and licenses, fee structures, and hybrid wind and marine hydrokinetic project considerations.

The revised guidelines may be obtained at

Canada’s Bill C-38 passes both sides of Parliament

Canada’s Budget Implementation Act was approved by both the House of Commons and Senate in June, potentially opening the door for increased hydroelectric growth.

The controversial legislation, also known Bill C-38, would modify more than 70 existing acts with the state goal of stimulating economic growth by spurring hydropower development and expansion.

We first reported on Bill C-38 in May when it was brought before Canada’s Parliament, and since then it has undergone numerous changes before being passed by a 158-135 margin on June 18.

Having passed both the House and Senate, Bill C-38 won’t officially become law until it is given Royal Assent by Canada’s Governor General. The process is largely ceremonial and reflects Canada’s historical sovereignty under England, so while a veto by the Governor General on behalf of the Crown is possible, no such denial has ever been given.

Affected acts are the Canadian Environmental Assessment, Canadian Environmental Protection, Kyoto Protocol Implementation, Fisheries, Navigable Waters Protection and Energy Board and Species at Risk, among others.

Brookfield Renewable makes deal for Alcoa’s 351-MW Tapoco project

Canada-based power producer Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners has struck a deal worth $600 million with Alcoa Inc. to purchase its 351-MW Tapoco project.

Tapoco, which includes four generating sites – Calderwood, Cheoah, Chilhowee and Santeetlah – is on the Little Tennessee and Cheoah rivers along the Tennessee/North Carolina border.

“The Tapoco facilities are proven generation assets and attractively situated in our core markets,” says Brookfield Chief Executive Officer Richard Legault. “The southern United States has favorable supply-demand dynamics with one of the highest areas of load growth in the U.S. and over the long-term should benefit from planned coal retirements and scarcity value by delivering clean, sustainable and on-peak renewable power.”

The deal also includes 86 miles of transmission line and about 14,500 acres of land in addition to four generating stations and dams.

“We believe this acquisition provides a unique opportunity to capture rising electricity prices, and our operating platform and expertise is well-suited to maximize the value of this portfolio over the long term,” Legault says.

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Trio leaves Duke Energy in merger fallout

The recent merger of Progress Energy and Duke Energy Corp. has resulted in several executives leaving Duke.

The Charlotte-based utility says John McArthur, executive vice president of regulated utilities; Mark Mulhern, executive vice president and chief administrative officer; and Paula Sims, chief integration and innovation officer, have resigned.

The resignations also come in the aftermath of the appointment of Jim Rogers as the new company’s chief executive officer instead of Bill Johnson, former CEO of Progress Energy. Earlier reports said that Johnson had been selected as CEO, although the company says he resigned in July “by mutual agreement.”

Duke Energy has more than 5,450 MW of total hydroelectric capacity that is produced by 17 facilities.

Washington issues water quality certificate for 9-MW Enloe

The Washington Department of Ecology has issued final Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification for the proposed 9-MW Enloe project in eastern Washington.

Clean Water Act certification by the state is a major prerequisite to licensing of a hydroelectric project by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Okanogan County Public Utility District seeks to license a new project at the existing Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River.

“Section 401 of the Clean Water Act requires non-federal projects to obtain a certification that the project will comply with the state’s water quality standards for aquatic life, including temperature and dissolved oxygen,” the Washington DOE said. “The certification incorporates 10 separate management plans that the PUD must follow to address fish needs, water quality, construction requirements, aquatic invasive species, revegetation, and wetlands protection.”

FERC staff issued a final environmental assessment in August 2011 recommending the Enloe project be licensed.

Enloe Dam originally generated electricity from 1923 to 1958, when it was decommissioned because a transmission line brought less expensive hydropower to Okanogan County. Okanogan PUD obtained a hydropower license for the project in 1983 that was rescinded at the PUD’s request in 1986 due to concerns about project costs and disagreements about upstream fish passage.

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