Marine and hydrokinetic energy represent a tremendous opportunity for hydropower growth in the US. Currently over 88,000MW of various forms of hydropower capacity are before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Over 30% of that, about 27,000MW, are marine and hydrokinetic technologies. Indeed, a recent study by Navigant Consulting demonstrated that, with the right policies, the US could develop about 16,000MW by 2025.

One such policy which the US industry hopes will help marine and hydrokinetic development is Senate Bill 630, the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2011. Introduced in March 2011 by Senator Lisa Murkowski, this piece of legislation is seen as an important step in the continued development of MHK technology.

“With such a high potential for powering the US renewable energy future, marine and hydrokinetic technologies must be brought to the market. In order for that to occur,” said Linda Church Ciocci, Executive Director of the national-hydropower-association (nha). “The country needs a long term research and development plan to lower the costs, increase the efficiency, and analyse potential environmental impacts of these emerging technologies. S630 is a great first step in achieving these goals.”

The Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition (OREC) supports the legislation proposed by Senator Murkowski, with OREC President Sean O’Neill, stating that marine and hydrokinetic power could provide 10% of the present US electricity consumption. “The measures in this legislation are essential for moving the industry towards commercialisation,” he said. “It offers a path forward to help realise a clean energy future.”

The aims of S630 are to:

• Include adaptive management grant provisions to provide a mechanism to collect and share environmental data.

• Authorise federal funding for three national MHK testing facilities.

• Establish an energy device verification programme.

• Authorise US$75M a year for three years (2012-14) for MHK programmes covered in the bill.

“This Bill adds important elements to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,” O’Neill said. “Most importantly it will provide much needed research and development funding to continue the excellent work done by the Department of Energy and other agencies to foster the responsible commercialisation of this industry.”

Technology development, from turbine design through to research on how arrays of devices affect efficiency and environmental performance, as well as grid integration and environmental data collection, are all addressed in the bill.

“Senate Bill 630 encourages cooperative efforts between universities, industry, national labs and government agencies,” OREC’s president added. “Similar to the great work done by committee staff in preparing this bill, cooperation across sectors is bearing fruit and the industry is witnessing rule makings and accelerated decision making that is allowing pilot and demonstration projects to be deployed.”

The marine and hydrokinetic bill is supported in the Senate by chief sponsor Lisa Murkowski (Alsaka) and chief co-sponsor Mark Begich (Alaska). Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) has also signed the bill which has cross-party support. It was reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on 26 May 2011 and it is hoped that the full Senate will pass the bill as soon as possible. “NHA hopes that the House of Representatives will pass the legislation and have the bill on the president’s desk by the end of the session,” Church Ciocci added.

The Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition said it will continue with its supporters in the House and Senate to secure passage of the act and lobby for additional support for marine renewable technologies.

“There is a real need to diversify our electricity supply,” Sean O’Neill said. “A reliable electrical system relies on a diversity of energy sources including wave, tidal, instream and other MHK technologies. This industry represents jobs and economic development throughout the country. The supply chain for manufacturing is widespread and goes well beyond the immediate potential for revitalising shipyards and diversifying maritime industries.”

Beyond this bill, NHA believes that Congress needs to fully fund the Department of Energy’s hydropower research and development programme at US$100M annually, evenly divided amongst conventional and new technologies. Inclusion in tax incentives, such as production or investment tax credits, and full recognition under any new renewable energy programme such as the proposed Clean Energy Standard, are also crucial. Continued streamlining of permitting and sharing of environmental data is also important in reducing costs and financing the industry, NHA commented.

The Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition

OREC was founded in 2005 and is the only national trade association in the US exclusively dedicated to promoting MHK technologies. It has over 40 members including technology developers, consultants, law firms, utilities, academic scholars and NGOs. OREC says it seeks a legislative and regulatory regime in the US that fosters the development of MHK, their commercial development and support in the race to capture the rich potential of the oceans. Furthermore, whilst other countries have already deployed viable, operating, power generating projects using ocean waves, currents and tidal forces, OREC believes that the US is only just beginning to acknowledge the importance of these technologies.

External weblinks

Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition