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After experiencing its lowest levels since 2001 in the previous year, hydropower electricity generation in the US is anticipated to surge by 6% in 2024, according to forecasts from the US Energy Information Administration's Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) released this month. This increase is expected to bring hydropower generation to a total of 250 billion kWh within the power sector.

Last year’s decline in hydropower output was particularly pronounced in the Northwest and Rockies region, where 43% of US hydropower generation typically occurs. However, with projections indicating a 3% increase in hydropower production for this region in 2024, totaling 106 billion kWh, the outlook is promising. Factors contributing to this improvement include forecasts of normal to above-normal water supply in certain areas, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northwest River Forecast Center.

In the Southeast, which encompasses states such as Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina, hydropower generation is expected to witness the largest regional increase of 4 billion kWh compared to the previous year. Despite this growth, natural gas and nuclear energy remain the dominant sources of electricity generation in the region, with nuclear energy set to rise further following the activation of the Vogtle Unit 4 generator in Georgia.

California, a state prone to drought, saw a substantial increase in hydropower generation last year due to favourable water conditions. This trend is expected to continue into 2024, with the California-Nevada River Forecast Center predicting near-to-above-normal water supply and snowpack levels across the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Additionally, nonhydro renewables, primarily solar and wind energy, are anticipated to contribute significantly to California's electricity generation mix, with a projected increase of 5 billion kilowatthours in 2024.

Across the rest of the US, regions such as New York and the Central region (Southwest Power Pool) are expected to witness notable increases in hydropower generation. New York's output is forecasted to rise slightly to 29 billion kWh, while the Southwest Power Pool region is anticipated to increase its hydropower output to 14 billion kWh, marking a recovery from the lows experienced in the previous year.

The anticipated rise in hydropower generation reflects a positive outlook for the US energy sector in 2024, with advancements expected across various regions. Lindsay Aramayo, the principal contributor to this analysis, underscores the importance of closely monitoring water supply forecasts and their impact on hydropower generation, which remains susceptible to fluctuations from year to year.