On August 1, a pair of bills designed to encourage the development of small hydropower projects was approved by the Senate. The bills, known as the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act (H.R. 267) and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678) await President Obama’s signature.
As noted in H.R. 267, the hydropower industry currently employs approximately 300,000 workers and is the largest source of clean and renewable electricity in the United States. Hydropower resources provide nearly 7 percent of the electricity in the U.S. However, only 3 percent of the 80,000 dams in the U.S. generate electricity, so there is substantial potential for adding hydropower generation to non-powered dams. Further, according to one study, by utilizing these untapped resources, the U.S. could add 60,000 megawatts of new hydro-power capacity by 2025, which could create 700,000 new jobs over the next 13 years.
Both bills seek to promote the use of small conduit hydropower, which is defined in H.R. 678 as “a facility capable of producing 5 megawatts or less of electric capacity.” Specifically, if enacted, H.R. 267 would ease the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s licensing requirements for small-scale hydroelectric projects that are considered to have a low impact on the environment. Similarly, H.R. 678 would encourage small hydropower development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities by easing the environmental review standards for such projects.
The text of H.R. 267 is available here.
The text of H.R. 678 is available here.