“We have an incredible amount of hydropower potential in my home state of Alaska, and elsewhere in the country,” Murkowski said when introducing the bills. “With the proper financing, we could keep a dozen hydro construction companies fully employed in Alaska for a decade or longer.”

The Hydropower Improvement Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA; Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA; and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, aims to increase the capacity of the nation’s hydropower sources by up to 75,000MW.

The legislation establishes a competitive grants program and directs the Department of Energy to produce and implement a plan for the research, development and demonstration of increased hydropower capacity. The bill also gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority to streamline the permitting and review process for hydropower projects, and calls for studies on pumped-storage sites and the potential for development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities.

The Hydropower Renewable Energy Development Act classifies hydroelectric power generation as a “renewable” resource for federal program purposes. This bill provides parity treatment for hydro in the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and expands the types of hydro that can qualify for the PTC and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS) program.

“As the Senate turns its attention to energy legislation, I hope we can finally recognize the important contribution hydropower, as a truly renewable resource, can provide to our clean energy goals,” Murkowski said.

Hydropower is the largest source of renewable electricity in the US, providing 7% of the nation’s power. In Alaska, hydro supplies 24% of the state’s electricity needs, and there are more than 200 additional sites that look promising for further hydropower development.

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