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
Streamline the Federal Power Act’s Licensing Process for Hydropower Facilities
The uncertainties surrounding the cost, duration, and outcome of the relicensing process threaten the existing hydropower fleet. Depending on location, relicensing a hydropower facility could involve up to thirteen major federal statutes and five major federal agencies. State resource agencies are also involved in hydropower licensing. No single agency has the authority to coordinate the current hydropower licensing process, which means relicensing efforts can often get delayed when one agency fails to discharge its responsibilities in a timely manner.
Relicensing a hydropower facility takes more than seven years on average complete, with relicensing for many facilities lasting over a decade. Relicensing an existing hydropower facility takes longer than relicensing other carbon-free technologies such as nuclear power plants. Regulatory uncertainty created by our existing hydropower licensing process is pushing existing hydropower operators to consider retiring their assets. In fact, nearly half of hydropower industry asset owners said that they were “actively considering” decommissioning a facility in a recent industry survey.
NHA Advocacy Statement: NHA supports reforming the Federal Power Act’s licensing process for hydropower facilities to clarify the scope of conditioning authority, ensure conditions are tied to project effects and improve coordination across federal agencies to produce a more efficient licensing and relicensing process.
Provide Tax Support for Safety and Environmental Upgrades at Existing Hydropower Facilities
The average hydropower project in the United States is more than 60 years old. While the hydropower industry is committed to operating safely, modernizing facilities that are more than half a century old to comply with modern design standards will require significant investments. Without tax incentives to help hydropower facilities fulfill federal safety and environmental regulations, the more than 500 hydropower facilities up for relicensing between now and 2035 may close or be forced to recoup the expense of meeting federal regulations through higher electricity prices.
NHA Advocacy Statement: NHA supports a 30% investment tax credit for safety and environmental upgrades at existing hydropower facilities to ensure hydropower can continue providing reliable, renewable energy.
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
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.
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.
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.