Key Policies for Waterpower

The National Hydropower Association advocates for policies at the federal and state level to support all sectors of the waterpower industry (conventional hydro, pumped storage, and marine energy).

At the federal level, NHA advocates for legislation to streamline licensing for hydropower, pumped storage, and marine energy and provide tax support for existing hydropower resources. NHA also advocates for market and regulatory policies that accurately reflect the contributions hydropower makes to our energy system.

At the state level, NHA supports clean energy standards for hydropower and marine energy, as well as energy storage targets for pumped storage, to ensure the waterpower industries can continue to provide reliable, renewable energy across the country.

Federal Legislation to Support the Waterpower Industry


Nearly half of the nonfederal hydropower fleet, responsible for providing 17GW of clean, flexible power to approximately 13 million U.S. homes, will be up for relicensing by 2035. Many hydropower asset owners are in the process of deciding whether to extend or surrender their licenses, putting those 17GW of baseload energy at risk.

On average, relicensing a hydropower facility takes between seven to ten years to complete and can cost millions of dollars. The current process causes uncertainty, as licensing and relicensing can become bogged down with delays and costs related to bureaucratic reviews imposed by agencies. Depending on location, relicensing a hydropower facility could involve up to thirteen major federal statutes and five major federal agencies, as well as numerous state resource agencies.

NHA Advocacy Statement: NHA supports H.R. 4045, the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act and S. 1521, the Community and Hydropower Improvement Act. These pieces of legislation reform the Federal Power Act to modernize, streamline, and expedite the FERC hydropower licensing process, to better inform agency decision making and improve coordination among all licensing and relicensing participants.


The average hydropower project in the U.S. is more than 60 years old. To comply with modern design standards and continue to operate safely and economically, the existing fleet must be upgraded, which will require significant investment.

A lack of tax support leaves many asset owners unable to finance these upgrades and at risk of license surrender. According to a recent industry study, one-third of hydropower owners are actively considering surrendering their licenses and decommissioning their facilities. Without tax incentives to help hydropower facilities fulfill federal safety and environmental regulations, the more than 500 facilities up for relicensing between now and 2035 may retire or be forced to recoup the cost through higher electricity prices.

NHA Advocacy Statement: NHA supports S. 2994, and H.R. 6653 the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act of 2023, which bridges the gap in existing law. This legislation establishes a 30% investment tax credit for dam safety and environmental upgrades at existing hydropower facilities to ensure the existing fleet can continue to provide flexible, carbon-free, and affordable electricity to millions of U.S. homes and businesses.

Commercialization of Marine Energy

There are abundant potential marine energy resources in the U.S., and technologies to convert them into renewable power are on the cusp of commercialization. Support from the U.S. Federal Government is needed for technology research and development, establishing a clear and predictable regulatory framework for testing and demonstration projects, and creating innovative incentives to facilitate rapid deployment of marine energy systems.

NHA Advocacy Statement: NHA supports increasing federal funding for the research and development of marine energy technologies and streamlining the regulatory and permitting process for marine energy technologies to facilitate the commercialization of these energy resources.

 Federal Regulatory Policy

Regulatory Policies

Safety and environmental standards for hydropower exist not only with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but with other federal and state agencies (e.g., endangered species, water quality certification, etc.). Hydropower owners are committed to operating safely and within the environmental parameters of their licenses and permits.

NHA Advocacy Statement: NHA supports regulatory constructs that provide certainty and consistency for the hydropower industry.

Market Policies

As our energy mix changes so too must our wholesale market design. Today, regional wholesale markets do not send adequate price signals for clean, flexible resources which will be vital for the clean energy transition. Energy, ancillary services, and capacity markets should be designed to reward resources based on the services they provide to the grid.

NHA Advocacy Statement: NHA supports fair, competitively neutral market policies that reward performance and send accurate price signals to resources that can meet reliability and climate goals.

State-Based Policies

Clean Energy Standards

States need every megawatt of carbon-free energy generation available to create a future energy system that is reliable and affordable while achieving their clean energy goals. Importantly, as the market case for new wind and solar development continues to improve, states should avoid policies that discriminate against existing hydropower resources and could contribute to their early retirement.

 NHA Advocacy Statement:  NHA supports state Clean Energy Standards and Renewable Portfolio Standards that include hydropower generation.

Energy Storage Targets

As wind and solar generation continue to make up a larger share of the nation’s energy generation, the United States needs long-duration energy storage to ensure the reliability of our energy system.

Pumped storage accounts for more than 80% of installed energy capacity in the United States, and is a proven long-duration technology (i.e., 8 or more hours).

Unlike other forms of energy storage, pumped storage is not reliant on critical minerals from foreign countries.

NHA Advocacy Statement: NHA supports state Energy Storage incentives that include pumped storage.