The National Hydropower Association has launched a new initiative aimed at increasing Congressional awareness of and support for America’s hydro sector, with the passage of modernized licensing processes being the ultimate goal.
NHA’s campaign, called HydroWorks, provides a free digital toolkit designed to give industry members resources they can use to contact their senators and representatives. Included on the campaign’s site are letter templates, infographics, sample social media posts, talking points and more.
“Congress has the opportunity to transform and strengthen America’s energy infrastructure,” said LeRoy Coleman, NHA Senior Manager of Strategic Communication. “We need to let them know that any infrastructure bill before Congress that fails to address modernizing the hydropower licensing process is losing an opportunity to create thousands of jobs and more clean energy.”
Putting people to work
Job creation is a key facet of HydroWorks, with significant potential existing within the United States.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydropower Vision report quantified this, stating jobs across the hydro-related spectrum could boom from around 143,000 to more than 195,000 by 2050, should the legislation exist to encourage growth.
“Hydropower isn’t just clean energy; it’s jobs,” Coleman said. “Every megawatt of power that we add to an existing non-powered dam means welders, electricians and equipment suppliers. And reinvesting in our existing infrastructure through efficiency upgrades means more engineers, machinists and metal fabricators.”
DOE’s most recent Energy and Employment Report, issued in 2017, echoes findings from the Hydropower Vision, saying hiring rates in the hydroelectric generation and efficiency sectors were expected to increase by 7% and 9%, respectively, through the previous year.
Room for growth
Though it already accounts for about 7% of the nation’s energy, America’s hydropower resources are far from tapped out. Conventional and pumped storage provided about 101 GW of cumulative power in 2015, though DOE said that capacity could grow to nearly 150 GW by 2050. Half of that growth could occur by 2030, according to the agency.
Even with the enactment of several key hydropower-related bills in recent years, however, NHA says the approval processes required for hydro can put it on a disadvantage compared to other forms of generation.
“The hydropower licensing process is keeping us from creating jobs and bolstering our nation’s energy infrastructure,” Coleman said. “There are over 140 potential hydropower projects sitting in the licensing pipeline. Each of these energy infrastructure projects could take a decade or more to license, and involve a great deal of uncertainty.”
Compounding the issue are the addition of more than 500 existing projects that will be up for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing by 2030.
“Unnecessary licensing delays and additional costs may also put this infrastructure at risk,” Coleman said.
A call to action
Prominent amongst the hydro-related bills making their way through Congress are The Hydropower Policy Modernization Act (House Resolution 3043), introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; and in the other chamber, a comprehensive, bipartisan energy bill, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
NHA said it hopes HydroWorks will highlight the importance not only of these bills, but also of close to 40 more that include potential vehicles for modernization language.
“Our goal for HydroWorks is to rally our industry, and speak with one voice,” Coleman said. “We encourage everyone in our industry to visit our HydroWorks website and send a letter to Congress. Making our voice heard is one of the most important things we can do, and our message is simple: HydroWorks to create jobs.”
Visit the National Hydropower Association’s HydroWorks website here.