The Biden-Harris Administration has released nearly $600 million to modernize and advance water power across America, as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. 

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will be accepting applications for the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity Incentives, which will provide up to $554 million in incentive payments to maintain and enhance hydroelectric facilities. DOE has also announced an additional $45 million funding opportunity to support a pilot demonstration site and community-led tidal and/or current energy project in the US.

Hydropower currently provides 6% of all electricity in the US and accounts for 32% of renewable-electricity generation. However, many facilities are in need of repair and upgrades, and less than 3% of the nation’s more than 90,000 dams currently produce power. Adding generation equipment to these sites could add up to 12GW of new hydropower capacity to the US electric system, enough to power 4.8 million homes.

The Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity Incentives program, administered by DOE’s Grid Deployment Office, is designed to enhance existing hydropower and pumped storage facilities for capital improvements related to grid resilience, dam safety, and environmental improvements. Potential eligible capital improvements include improvements that enable the integration of variable resources, such as wind and solar, improvements for dam safety, such as spillway upgrades and erosion repair, and improvements in environmental conditions, such as fish passage, water quality, and recreation.

The new $45 million funding opportunity will make the first large-scale investment in a tidal and/or current energy research, development, and demonstration site in the US. DOE will also support a community-led tidal and/or current energy planning and development project. This investment will encourage US leadership in tidal and current energy development, while also meeting community energy priorities and developing the sector’s supply chain and workforce, DOE said.

These announcements represent DOE's largest-ever investments in both hydropower and marine energy and will play a key role in achieving President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. The move is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which aims to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, drive private sector manufacturing and clean energy investments, create jobs, and build a clean-energy economy that will combat climate change and make communities more resilient.

“Water power, the nation’s oldest source of renewable energy, is an integral tool to fight against climate change,” commented US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “President Biden's Investing in America agenda provides historic funding that will expand and modernize water power technologies, ensuring a steady flow of reliable power to more Americans.”