Industry Call to Action: Ask Congress This Week to Support ‘Solar-Scale’ Level of Federal Investment for Waterpower

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Industry Call to Action: Ask Congress This Week to Support ‘Solar-Scale’ Level of Federal Investment for Waterpower


April 18, 2022


Paul Gay, Vice President, SMI, Inc. (Strategic Marketing Innovations)


Industry Call to Action: Ask Congress This Week to Support ‘Solar-Scale’ Level of Federal Investment for Waterpower

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Financial investments from the federal government can make a significant impact in the development and deployment of advanced water power technologies. Anyone working in the waterpower industry – project owners and developers, technology developers, and service and product suppliers – is urged to take action this week to ensure these federal investments continue to grow.

The specific action is to ask your Congressional representative to sign – by this Friday, April 22 –a letter of support, initiated by Congresswomen Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME).

The letter will be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee, asking for $222 million for waterpower funding for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office in fiscal year 2023 (October 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023).


The U.S. waterpower sector has tremendous beneficial impacts on our nation’s electric grid, the economy, and environment. Conventional hydropower delivers almost 40% of total renewable electricity generation in the United States; pumped storage hydro projects provided 93% of total energy storage. In addition, marine energy has the technical potential to provide 2,300 terawatt-hours a year of electricity production in the United States – the equivalent to 57% of 2019 energy consumption.

The waterpower sector is poised to do even more to support a 100% clean energy future. The U.S. has significant underutilized waterpower resources, including potential to add hydropower  generation components at existing dams and conduits, construct new pumped storage hydro facilities, and install new devices to capture the potential power of waves, tides, ocean currents, and riverine hydrokinetics.

Advancement of new and innovative technologies, operations, and approaches to harness these resources in a globally competitive marketplace is enhanced by federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO). This funding augments research, development, and deployment (RD&D) efforts being led by industry with support from universities and the U.S. DOE’s system of national laboratories.


The waterpower industry appreciates that Congress has increased funding for the DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office in recent years, culminating in $162 million for fiscal year 2022.

This funding is supporting innovation of advanced technologies to increase power production and reduce costs, improve grid reliability and resilience, create new market opportunities that improve economic growth, and fund cross-institutional foundational research to support workforce development.

Bottom line? Increased WPTO funding will help the United States achieve its clean energy goals through the development of new water-powered electricity generation resources.

While a step in the right direction, this funding is well below other DOE renewable energy applied research programs. For example, Congress provided $290 million for solar energy in FY 2022 … nearly twice as much as for waterpower.

That funding is contributing toward significant growth in solar capacity. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. installed 23.6 GW of solar PV capacity in 2021 to reach 121.4 GW of total installed capacity. That’s enough to power 23.3 million American homes. Solar accounted for 46% of all new electricity-generating capacity added in the U.S. in 2021, the third year in a row that solar made up the largest share of new capacity.

The disparity in federal funding support between solar and water is concerning.

Currently, there are only a handful of pre-commercial waterpower technology demonstration projects underway or soon to be deployed in the United States. More funding will help accelerate these demonstration projects, which will then lead to increased capacity from waterpower.

I am calling for a “solar-scale” level of federal investment in advanced waterpower technologies, which I believe is required to accelerate the pace of demonstrations and deployments, reduce costs, and increase adoption along a similar trajectory of solar and wind.


Hydro project owners and developers, service and product suppliers, and technology developers have the opportunity this week to lobby Congress in order to help secure this “solar-scale” level of funding for waterpower.

Last week, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) released a “Dear Colleague” request to the entire U.S. House of Representatives, asking their colleagues to sign on to a letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking for the National Hydropower Association-requested level of $222 million for water power in fiscal year 2023.

At the end of this article, you’ll find a list of Members of Congress who supported a similar letter for fiscal year 2022.

Whether your Representative is on the list or not, please contact his/her office this week to: 1) offer to brief the staff on why increased water power funding matters to you, and 2) ask them to sign onto the Bonamici/Pingree letter.

The closing date for Congressional delegates to sign onto the Bonamici/Pingree letter is this Friday, April 22.

Need help reaching out to staff for your Member of Congress?

Please contact myself ( or Will Pisano, director of government affairs for the National Hydropower Association (NHA). We are pleased to help you in this outreach.

This week provides a great opportunity for each of us in the industry to build closer ties with our Congressional Representative and spread the good word about the role water power will play in a 100% clean energy future.

Signers of the Letter of Support for Water Power Funding in Fiscal Year 2022

Donald Beyer Jr. D (VA-8th)

Earl Blumenauer D (OR-3rd)

Suzanne Bonamici D (OR-1st)

Jamaal Bowman D (NY-16th)

Salud O. Carbajal D (CA-24th)

Sean Casten D (IL-6th)

Steve Cohen D (TN-9th)

Jim Costa D (CA-16th)

Angie Craig D (MN-2nd)

Peter DeFazio D (OR-4th)

Diana DeGette D (CO-1st)

Mark DeSaulnier D (CA-11th)

Ted Deutch D (FL-22nd)

Raul M. Grijalva D (AZ-3rd)

Kaiali’I Kahele D (HI-2nd)

Bill Keating D (MA-9th)

Rick Larsen D (WA-2nd)

Doris Matsui D (CA-6th)

Donald McEachin D (VA-4th)

James P. McGovern D (MA-2nd)

David McKinley R (WV-1st)

Jerry McNerney D (CA-9th)

Jimmy Panetta D (CA-20th)

Donald M. Payne, Jr. D (NJ-10th)

Chellie Pingree D (ME-1st)

Stacey E. Plaskett D (VI-AL)

Bobby L Rush D (IL-1st)

Kurt Schrader D (OR-5th)

Bobby Scott D (VA-3rd)

Terri A. Sewell D (AL-7th)

Adam Smith D (WA-9th)

Lloyd Smucker R (PA-11th)

Darren Soto D (FL-9th)

Elise Stefanik R (NY-21st)

Mark Takano D (CA-41st)

Paul Tonko D (NY-20th)

Don Young R (AK-AL) – the late Congressman Young had been the Republican co-lead of this annual bipartisan letter, which is just one of the reasons NHA honored him posthumously at the with the Legislator of the Year award. I am sure he would be pleased that industry is working together to increase support for federal waterpower investments.