Senators Introduce Bipartisan Hydropower Bill
Washington-On Capitol Hill, cheap affordable energy is not a new concept.
New legislation in the Senate is new and innovative.
The Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013 sponsored by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and co-sponsored by Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.
“Streamlining the hydropower relicensing process and retrofitting existing structures for energy production needs to happen,” said Senator Jim Risch.
The legislation not only boosts capacity on existing dams but encourages hydropower production on conduit projects like irrigation canals.
The legislation caught the eye of Idaho’s Congressional delegation because the Gem State has thousands of miles of canals that could one day produce clean, cheap energy.
The legislation’s appeal is that it increases hydropower production without building new dams.
So far no major environmental groups have opposed the Act.
“Hydropower efficiently and cleanly provides about seven percent of the nation’s electricity. Senator Murkowski’s legislation helps to increase that capacity without increasing the country’s out-of-control deficit,” said Idaho Senator Mike Crapo.
Even Oregon’s Democrat Ron Wyden is on board.
“Generating hydropower from water in irrigation canals, conduits, and behind existing dams is the low-hanging fruit the U.S. should seize as it moves toward a low-carbon economy. This bill will turn that untapped resource to clean energy in Oregon and across the United States,” said Wyden.
Senator Jim Risch says that hydropower is still the cleanest, most cost effective domestic sources of energy. “The relicensing process shouldn’t be a hindrance to a proven clean energy resource,” said Senator Risch.
As the country’s largest source of renewable energy, hydropower allows the nation to avoid approximately 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year. Thats not all, according to the Department of Energy, the U.S. has the potential for 300 gigawatts of additional hydropower.
Throughout the Pacific Northwest, hydropower has proven to be a valuable, efficient energy resource that produces a low carbon footprint for the environment.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues from both parties to pass the Hydropower Improvement Act and build on our use of hydropower to create jobs, protect our environment, and bring clean energy resources to our communities,” said co-sponsor Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington).
The Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013 would add power generation to existing irrigation dams that currently don’t produce power. It also promotes a new micro-dam technology thats being developed throughout the Northwest.
All parts of the country benefits from the Act because an astonishing 97 percent of the nation's dams don't generate power. With Washington and Idaho leading the way, the functions of old dams retrofitted to produce power could quadruple capacity and keep power bills the lowest in the nation.
Republican sponsors of this bill endorse it because it would, in a couple of ways, result in less government. The measure calls for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to exempt small conduit projects. Approval processes that now take four or more years would be studied with the intent of streamlining the permitting to two years.
Dams in Idaho would undergo extensive study, with an emphasis of finding ways to expand storage and increase capacity. Turbine upgrades and other projects could lead to more energy produced using the same amount of water.
Sponsors say the legislation directly benefits agriculture without taking valuable irrigation water. Hydropower produces three-fourths of our state's electricity; it also irrigates hundreds of thousands of acres of potatoes, beets, onions and wheat and corn not to mention a dozens of cash crops totaling billions of dollars in annual revenue in Idaho.
Sponsors say this is a win-win for both parties because members of Congress have the chance to pass meaningful bi-partisan legislation. The act could end gridlock that has paralyzed Capitol Hill, allowing clean-energy production for the Northwest and allowing the nation to move forward at last on critical energy legislation.
Details of the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2011
- Provides the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the authority to extend preliminary permit terms;
- Directs FERC to explore a possible two-year licensing process for hydropower development at non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects;
- Establishes an expedited process for FERC to consider “qualifying conduit” hydropower facilities;
- Increases the rated capacity for small hydro projects from five to 10 megawatts;
- Calls for the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the technical flexibility and grid reliability benefits that pumped storage facilities could provide to intermittent renewable energy, and the range of opportunities for conduit hydropower potential;
- Does not contain any spending authorizations and therefore does not represent any new funding.