August 14, 2013

President Obama Signs Groundbreaking Legislation to Expand U.S. Hydropower Production

Bills to streamline the hydropower licensing process are now law.

Legislation designed to expand hydropower production in the United States by improving and streamlining the licensing process for small hydropower projects is now law. The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act were signed into law by President Obama. Previously, the Senate unanimously passed the legislation just before it adjourned for August; the House passed each bill with nearly unanimous support earlier in the year. 

"President Obama's signature on hydropower legislation is terrific news for expanding renewable energy and creating jobs across the country," said Voith Hydro President and CEO Kevin Frank. "There's no better indication that hydropower is at the center of the national policy debate than the widespread and bipartisan support these bills received in both the House and Senate. We wouldn't have gotten to this point without the outstanding leadership of Chairman Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Murkowski (R-AK) in the Senate and Representatives McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) in the House."

The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act will improve the permitting process for small and conduit hydropower projects on Bureau of Reclamation facilities. The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act will:

  • Increase the small hydro exemption to 10 MW (currently at 5MW)
  • Remove conduit projects under 5 MW from FERC jurisdiction and increase the conduit exemption to 40 MW for all projects 
  • Provide FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits
  • Require FERC to examine a 2-year licensing process for non-powered dams and closed loop pump storage

Last month, over 3,000 people associated with the global hydropower industry gathered in Denver, Colorado for HydroVision International, the world's largest hydropower conference. Following the conference, the Denver Post editorialized in favor of hydropower legislation, concluding: "It is legislation that should pass for practical reasons — it has broad support — and because it's good policy for a nation that should continue to diversify its energy portfolio."

In 2012, Kevin Frank was named a "Champion of Change" by the White House for his work to promote clean and renewable energy. Frank joined other Champions and top White House officials for a discussion about the country's clean energy future, and also penned a blog post on the White House website about his and Voith's work to promote American hydropower. Earlier this year, a Voith-supplied project in Missouri River Energy Services' Red Rock Hydroelectric project was included in President Obama's Climate Action plan. Specifically, the project was added to the Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard, designed to streamline and prioritize critical infrastructure projects.

"The passage of this legislation is a first but very important step in getting more clean, renewable, and job-creating hydropower to homes and businesses across the U.S.," Frank continued. "We thank President Obama for his support for America's largest renewable resource."

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