A Call for Participation: Help Build Hydro’s Roadmap to the Future

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A Call for Participation: Help Build Hydro’s Roadmap to the Future


January 30, 2023


Alexandra Freibott, Communications Professional, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


A Call for Participation: Help Build Hydro’s Roadmap to the Future

NHA thanks our sponsors:

Waterpower Week

Hydropower is critical to the clean energy future, and so is your input.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Hydropower Foundation, and national laboratories are leading an effort to build a roadmap for the future of hydropower, as part of a Hydropower Vision project. To build the roadmap, they are convening forums in which broad groups of stakeholders are participating to identify specific activities needed to secure flexible hydro operations, safe dams, and sustainable approaches to hydropower operations.

Follow the link to learn more about the forums.

For those looking to participate, email the team directly or sign up online, and if you’re not able to participate directly in the forums, but still have ideas to contribute, share your input here.


Hydropower is one of the oldest sources of electricity in the world. Today, it provides approximately 6% of total U.S. electricity generation.

In the push toward a cleaner energy future, hydropower’s long history as a reliable source of renewable energy that stabilizes the grid can mean it’s often overlooked as a critical part of a secure, modernized grid.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Energy released the Hydropower Vision in 2016 — to establish a new perspective on hydropower’s role in a clean energy future and to create a roadmap to get there by 2050.

Developed with input from stakeholders in the hydropower community, the Hydropower Vision report summarized the status and potential of hydropower in the United States. It also included a roadmap with the technical, economic, and institutional actions needed to optimize hydropower’s contribution to clean energy generation while preserving natural resources.

“The original Vision inspired new research and data to support hydropower decision making, increased dialogue within the broader hydropower community, and influenced policy recommendations,” said Tim Welch, DOE lead for Hydropower Vision.

In clean energy, however, the only constant seems to be change.

Since 2016, the makeup of renewable power generation has continued to rapidly shift.

New, reimagined goals for hydropower are needed to keep pace.


To set these new goals, DOE, the Hydropower Foundation, and national laboratories are once again engaging leaders in the hydropower community to reimagine the goals for 2050 and identify new priorities aligned with the changing times—including priorities that emerged after 2016 … such as safer, more secure infrastructure.

The reimagined Vision for hydropower’s future centers on three key drivers:

  1. Flexible operations
  2. Safe dams
  3. Sustainable approaches

“To actually reach that future, we’ve worked with leaders and representatives across hydropower sectors to identify updated goals in the reimagined Vision that reflect where hydropower is now and where we want to be by 2050,” explained Linda Church-Ciocci, executive director of the Hydropower Foundation.

These updated goals fall within five action areas:

  • Advanced technology
  • Sustainable development and operations
  • Improved valuation
  • Optimized regulatory processes
  • Enhanced collaboration, education, and outreach

The reimagined Hydropower Vision Roadmap focuses on activities and priorities within five specific action areas to achieve flexible hydropower operations, safe dams, and sustainable approaches for the future. (Illustration by Cortland Johnson, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

The updated goals in each action area act as important signposts along the journey to reach the shared vision of hydropower’s future.

With new signposts in place, it’s time to develop a clear roadmap to reach those goals by 2050.


The Roadmap will include strategic activities needed to make the reimagined Vision a reality by 2050. These activities are intended to help the hydropower community as a whole leverage specific opportunities to achieve the updated goals.

“Our current focus is on engaging with even more of the hydropower community to identify exactly what activities and opportunities are critical to reach each of those goals and, more importantly, identifying both short- and long-term priorities,” Alison Colotelo, project lead of the reimagined Hydropower Vision Roadmap and hydropower program lead at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The Roadmap is divided into the same five action areas as the reimagined Vision. In each action area, a forum of hydropower leaders and technical experts—including representatives from all hydropower sectors—will engage in discussions on the pathways to achieving the goals of the hydropower community.

The Roadmap is set to be finalized and released in October 2023 after extensive outreach with the hydropower community and stakeholders who will inform which Roadmap activities are considered.

The reimagined Hydropower Vision Roadmap will include activities that directly support the reimagined goals. These will encompass priorities at multiple scales, from the level of an individual hydropower plant all the way to broader policy and decision making across entire watersheds. (Illustration by Cortland Johnson, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)


Forums are just now starting to meet, bringing together interested community members to inform the activities that will make up the Roadmap. Participants in the public forums will have the opportunity to meet multiple times over the next few months, and the Roadmap team invites hydropower stakeholders to participate in these discussions to shape the final Roadmap.

Each of the forums will focus on identifying specific activities that can help achieve goals in the five action areas:

  • The Advanced Technology forum will discuss: innovative approaches to improving development and capacity value; advancing environmental performance through new technology, testing, and validating new technologies; and increasing the reliability of technologies for grid integration and resiliency.
  • The Sustainable Development and Operations forum will focus on: operations that are resilient to climate change, coordination with other basin-scale water uses, demonstration of environmental protection measures, and the safety and security of dams throughout their life cycle.
  • The Improved Valuation forum will discuss: how to understand and value both power and non-power hydropower services, service compensation, and options for financing support.
  • The Optimized Regulatory Process forum will discuss ways to: improve understanding of and access to the regulatory process; apply and enable new science and innovation; and improve decision-making outcomes through regulatory process assessments.
  • The Enhanced Collaboration, Education, and Outreach forum will focus on: ways to increase recognition of hydropower as a renewable resource; best practices and benchmarking; workforce development to meet industry needs; and accessible research and data sharing for improved decision making.