A bill that could expand hydropower in the US has been approved by a majority vote of 257-166 in the House of Representatives, and will now move forward to the senate.
Sponsored by Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017. H.R. 3043 aims to streamline the for hydropower facilities, primarily by designating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency in the process. This would mean all states, tribes and other federal agencies would have to defer to the commission.
“Hydropower is already America’s original renewable energy, but its untapped potential remains tremendous,” said Bob Gallo, President and CEO of Voith Hydro, Inc. “With this vote, the US House reaffirms America’s commitment to the use of hydropower as an affordable and carbon-free source of baseload power. Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers deserves praise for her commitment to expanding hydropower production in Washington state and across the U.S. Final passage will improve the regulatory landscape and bring more clean, renewable, and affordable energy online for American homes and businesses.”
The need for licensing reform is clear. Hydropower projects can take 10 years or longer to complete, which makes it difficult for many developers to justify project economics. These issues are particularly significant now as over 400 existing projects representing over 18,000 MW of capacity will be entering relicensing by 2030, representing over 18 percent of current capacity. Without significant changes to the process, both existing and new projects could be put in jeopardy.
Opponents say the bill would however give hydropower use over public waterways at the expense of fishermen, boaters and Native American tribes.