THE national-hydropower-association hosted key industry leaders, legislators, and policymakers during its annual conference in Washington, DC from 11-13 May 2009. This year’s theme, ‘Tapping the Future: Hydropower, Energy Demand, and Water Supply’, looked at the ways hydro power supports US policy objectives, including energy growth, climate change, and economic development, while the association offered presentations and events designed to capture the industry’s growing momentum in North America.

“This has been a big year for us as an industry,” said nha executive director Linda Church Ciocci. “We’ve seen hydro power included in major legislative initiatives, such as the Recovery Act and various renewable energy standards proposals; we’ve increased the federal R&D budget tenfold; we’ve seen the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issue the first commercial hydrokinetic licence; and we are witnessing growing understanding from all groups about the role water power can – and should – play in our energy mix.”

Church Ciocci said the NHA designed the conference to build on all these developments and position the industry for the future.

“NHA works year-round to advocate for hydro power before national legislators, regulators, and policymakers,” she said, “but our strength comes from activating the entire industry to do the same thing on a local and national level.”

The conference started with a reception and awards ceremony on Capitol Hill hosted by NHA and the House Hydropower Caucus. Caucus founder and chairwoman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers told the crowd that the industry’s messages are resonating in Congress, and she urged industry officials to keep up the push.

In the west, especially in her home state of Washington, she said, people understand the clean, affordable, domestic energy that hydro power offers, and they know that’s what attracts high-tech companies to her region. She also talked about how more and more people – even in Congress – are beginning to recognise that these benefits exist on a national level too.

McMorris Rogers joined NHA officials in presenting the Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters awards, which recognise superior achievement and best practices in the industry. This year’s winners included projects at New York Power Authority, Puget Sound Energy, TransCanada, and Yuba County (CA) Water Agency.

Later that day, NHA honoured another legislator, Sen. Maria Cantwell, with its legislator of the year award, recognising her longtime advocacy of water power technologies in energy, environmental, and economic legislative proposals.

“She has been a strong supporter on key legislative initiatives that include hydro power, such as the Recovery Act,” said NHA outgoing president Richard Miller. “As Chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and a member of the Subcommittee on Water and Power, Senator Cantwell has helped us build bridges to the environmental community by encouraging us to forge an agreement that recognises the benefits of ocean, tidal, and incremental hydro power projects, as well as the potential for powering non-powered dams.”

Opportunities to grow

Other events throughout the week included sessions on hydro-wind integration, development issues, research priorities, new technologies, and legal and regulatory issues. NHA also sponsored a post-conference forum on non-federal hydro development at federal dams.

“All of these issues speak of the many opportunities the industry has to grow,” Church Ciocci said. “Focusing on growth – and moving beyond the issues that have slowed development in the past – is a refrain we heard from legislators and industry leaders. Mark Crisson – President and CEO of the American Public Power Association; Glenn English – CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; and Tom Kuhn – president of the Edison Electric Institute, reiterated this during our opening plenary session too: Now is the time for us to expand.”

NHA’s leadership also put a strong emphasis on growth. The organisation applauded the achievements of Hydro Green Energy, which secured the first commercial hydrokinetic licence this year, with its prestigious President’s Award, and announced that longtime industry developer and Brookfield Renewable Power executive David Youlen will receive this year’s Henwood Award.

Addressing the membership in his new role as NHA’s 2009-2010 president, Grant County PUD’s Andrew Munro also focused on growth and set out an aggressive course for the industry.

“I believe we’re standing at a critical juncture, where the hydro industry’s benefits align with our country’s most pressing needs,” Munro said. “We must take bold action…strike now while our interests are the public’s interest.”

Munro went on to challenge the industry to double the total megawatts of new hydro power projects before FERC and the number of jobs in the US industry by 2012, as well as doubling overall US hydro power capacity by 2025. These goals would position the industry to meet President Obama’s call to double renewable energy generation, as well as keeping the industry’s focus on important policy areas.

“I’d argue that the industry enjoys more opportunity now than we’ve had since the time of the Great Depression,” Munro said, referring to the growing interest in Congress and the Obama administration in water power issues. “I want to leverage this momentum to reach our goals.”

According to Church Ciocci, these goals not only signal NHA’s course over the next year, they also focus energy building within the industry.

“I think Andrew Munro’s speech and the challenges he set out are in tune with the industry’s interests and directions today,” she said. “Throughout the conference, we could feel a tremendous sense of energy and momentum from both our attendees and speakers.”

Church Ciocci pointed to the conference’s strong attendance figures as a clear indicator of the entire sector’s interest in hydro power. “Despite the travel restrictions many companies are facing, budget freezes, and even the swine flu scare, we saw attendance increase almost 50% over last year,” she said. “I think people were really looking to NHA and the conference to see how we can move forward as an industry.”

She believes that the conference helped capture that for the attendees. “There’s a growing understanding that this is the time for hydro power to shine,” she said. “Hydro power offers the energy, environmental, and economic benefits policymakers around the world are seeking, so it’s our duty as an industry to capitalise on the opportunity.”