Approved by a vote of 85-12, the bill – known as the Energy Policy Act of 2005 – marks the conclusion of a bi-partison process by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and floor debate covering a wide span of issue areas in current and future US energy policy. It contains a number of provisions to increase production and conservation, diversify fuel supply and employ new technologies.

The hydro power provision included in the bill modifies the relicensing process under the Federal Power Act, by requiring federal resource agencies with authority to impose mandatory conditions on licenses to approve more cost effective alternative conditions submitted by applicants, so long as the proposals meet the agency’s conditions for environmental protection.

The energy research and development component of the bill is also likely to benefit the industry – R&D programmes have been authorised for hydro, as well as other forms of renewable energy. Also approved is a three year extension (through 2008) for the Section 45 renewable energy production tax credit, and expansion of section 45 to include incremental hydro power and ocean energy as qualifying resources.

The bill has been welcomed by the National Hydropower Association (NHA), as it is likely to reverse decline and create new opportunities for hydro power resources. ‘By repairing the long-broken hydro power licensing process and providing incentives for new hydro power development at existing dams, the Senate energy bill creates a bright new future for the nation’s leading renewable resource,’ said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the NHA. ‘It ensures that millions of Americans will continue to benefit from hydro power’s many energy and environmental benefits.’

This new energy bill follows similar legislation passed by the House of Representatives on 21 April 2005. Both bills will now be referred to a conference committee where any differences between the two bills will be resolved.

While the White House and Congressional Leaders are pushing for final energy legislation by the end of July, it is more likely that the process of reconciling the House and Senate versions will proceed slowly with work not completed until this Fall.

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National Hydropower Association