Rapid Change Expected in North American Hydro Industry

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Rapid Change Expected in North American Hydro Industry


November 1, 2021


Tim Oakes, Vice President, Kleinschmidt Associates


Rapid Change Expected in North American Hydro Industry

NHA thanks our sponsors:

Black & Veatch

Preliminary results from the first annual “Ear to the River” survey of hydro asset owners in North America show the industry is (or will be) changing rapidly owing to the transition to clean energy.

Among the changes:

  • An increase in direct power purchase agreements with corporations and universities.
  • Increased use of batteries and co-located renewable generation to provide firm renewable power.
  • An increase in pumped-storage development.
  • Continued investment in existing projects.
  • Better recognition and compensation for hydro’s role in balancing other renewables in the future.
  • Increased consideration of decommissioning some existing hydro assets due to poor project economics and low energy prices.

These results were released October 20, 2021, during the inaugural Clean Currents Conference + Tradeshow.

Details about the Survey

The “Ear to the River” survey is a new annual survey of the North American hydroelectric industry that was developed through a partnership of the Hydropower Foundation, the Ontario Waterpower Association, and Kleinschmidt Associates.


The initial survey was developed by the partners and industry advisors. GreatBlue Research was hired through a competitive bid process to administer the survey. The survey was released to the industry in September 2021 and the preliminary results are based on confidential responses from a cross section of hydro asset owners throughout the U.S. and Canada, representing over 11 GW of hydro generation.

Why the Need for the Survey?

Most of the information available about the hydro industry is based on public information such as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) filings. While this is great to know where the industry is currently, it doesn’t necessarily help to predict where the industry is going. Having an annual survey of the industry will help vendors and suppliers understand opportunities and will help lobbying efforts by providing data on how various policies could impact the role hydro plays in transitioning to a clean energy future.

“This report is an important new resource that helps to illuminate near-term trends across the U.S. and Canadian hydropower sectors,” said Jeffrey Leahey, Vice President of Strategic Marketing Innovations. “The data is informative and a value-add for those who are seeking to better understand the future direction of the hydro industry,”

Not Too Late to Participate

The goal was to be able to unveil the survey at Clean Currents, and we were thrilled to have the response we did that allowed us to see some clear and major trends in the industry. However, the more data we gather, the more we will be able to understand specific trends in various sectors and regions of the industry. We are encouraging all hydro owners who have not yet responded to so by November 14, 2021.

Take the Survey

Additional survey data as well as interviews with several owners will be assembled into a final report that will be made available to the public in December 2021.

To promote participation, the Ear to the River partnership will be donating at least 50 hydropower science kits to STEM programs in schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. Survey participants can request specific schools and teachers to be included.