US hydropower sector in ‘landmark’ collaboration agreement with environmental groups

19 October 2020

A collaboration agreement has been signed between environmental groups and the US hydropower sector which recognises the need to tackle climate change with renewable energy while also preserving healthy rivers.

The joint statement, which was described as a ‘landmark agreement’ by the International Hydropower Association, was issued on 13 October by twelve organisations: the US National Hydropower Association; the Hydropower Foundation; Eagle Creek Renewables; Natel Energy; Low Impact Hydropower Association; Rye Development; Hydropower Reform Coalition; American Rivers; WWF; Union of Concerned Scientists; Great River Hydro; and American Whitewater.

The agreement outlines how the benefits of hydropower, including its energy storage potential, should be harnessed while protecting the ecology and environment of American water systems. The statement specifically identifies seven areas for joint collaboration:

  1. Accelerate development of hydropower technologies and practices to improve generation efficiency, environmental performance, and solar and wind integration.
  2. Advocate for improved US dam safety.
  3. Increase basin-scale decision-making and access to river-related data.
  4. Improve the measurement, valuation of and compensation for hydropower flexibility and reliability services and support for enhanced environmental performance.
  5. Advance effective river restoration through improved off-site mitigation strategies.
  6. Improve Federal hydropower licensing, relicensing, and license surrender processes.
  7. Advocate for increased funding for US dam rehabilitation, retrofits and removals.

The agreement was brokered following a two-and-a-half year dialogue co-convened by Stanford University and the Energy Futures Initiative. It recognises that, of the 90,000 dams that exist in the US dams, less than 2500 are fitted with hydropower.

Responding to the statement, IHA CEO Eddie Rich said: “We welcome this landmark agreement between the hydropower community and conservation groups in the USA. Decisions around all technologies have to balance a mixture of local, regional and global impacts. It is heartening to see a maturing debate on the trade-offs of hydropower development. This demonstrates a strong commitment by the hydropower industry and environmental NGOs to work together to promote renewable energy and address climate change while preserving the health of precious rivers.

“Renewable hydropower is going to be essential for the clean energy transition. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that it is developed sustainably including by fitting hydropower capacity on to existing dams, modernising others and removing those that serve no purpose. This statement is a call to action for the environmental and hydropower communities around the world to work together on the biggest challenge that faces the 21 century.”

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