A bill introduced by Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers could help speed up hydropower development in the US.

The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act will expand hydropower production by affirming its role as an essential renewable resource and updating Federal renewable purchase requirements to include hydropower. It will also modernise the licensing process in the country and improves coordination among permitting agencies by setting schedules, clarifying responsibilities, and establishing mechanisms to resolve disputes among licensing participants.

“Hydropower is one of America’s top renewable energy sources and accounts for roughly 70% of our clean energy in Washington state. Building a clean energy future doesn’t happen without prioritizing the continued development of hydroelectric energy resources,” said McMorris Rodgers. “The way we solve the climate crisis is through free-market technological innovation, and in addition to expanding hydropower resources, this legislation supports the development of next-generation hydro technology that can increase clean energy production and further decrease environmental impact.”

The bill provides special licensing terms for small hydropower projects that are unlikely to jeopardize threatened or endangered species or critical habitat and expedites licensing for next-generation hydropower projects that utilize technologies that protect, mitigate, or enhance environmental resources.

The bill also requires a report to Congress containing recommendations to reduce barriers to the development of conventional, pumped-storage, conduit, and emerging hydropower technologies. Proper compensation will also be encouraged for the full range of services that hydropower provides to the electric grid, including grid reliability and the cost-effective integration of renewables.

“The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act recognizes hydropower as an essential part of America’s emerging clean energy grid, and we applaud Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) for her leadership," commented Malcolm Woolf, President and CEO of the National Hydropower Association. 'If the nation is serious about achieving deep decarbonization, energy and climate policy must reflect the critical contribution that hydropower provides. This bill puts us on that path by modernizing hydropower’s licensing process and working to ensure that hydropower is properly valued in energy markets for the reliability services it provides to the grid. NHA believes that we can both protect rivers and maintain a thriving hydropower industry. We look forward to our continued work with the Energy and Commerce Committee and other interested parties to advance clean energy legislation that achieves both these goals.”