A US Department of Energy research and development funding request for hydro power was lower than expected, and has been met with disapproval from the hydro industry.

‘To leave hydro power funding flat while the renewable budget is up 32% reveals the truth about where this administration stands on hydro power issues,’ said national-hydropower-association (NHA) executive director Linda Church Ciocci. ‘While they say they want to maintain the viability of hydro power, the reality is they don’t support the nation’s leading renewable resource.

‘Until now, the Advanced Hydropower Turbine Pro-gramme was their flagship hydro power programme — and now it is sinking fast.’

The administration’s US$5M request for hydro power funding for 2001 is US$2M less than last year’s request: a sharp cut from the recommendation of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology’s November 1997 report which proposed that funding should be increased to US$11M in 2001.

The funds are being used to develop a new generation of hydro power turbines that would increase the survival rate of endangered fish species and improve other environmental conditions around a hydro power project.

Ciocci said that this cut in funding not only postpones critical testing of advanced turbines but will prevent prototype development and may ultimately lead to the programme’s demise. She concluded: ‘The imbalance between the administration’s climate change and fisheries initiatives on the one hand, and their failure to support hydro power on the other, continues to absolutely confound us. With so much at stake, including cleaner air and fish restoration, one has to question their commitment to sound public policy.’