Where’s the Cash Going? Breaking Down Recent Waterpower Funding from the U.S. Federal Government

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Where’s the Cash Going? Breaking Down Recent Waterpower Funding from the U.S. Federal Government

DATE:

March 6, 2023

BY:

Anthony Laurita, Program Manager, National Hydropower Association

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Where’s the Cash Going? Breaking Down Recent Waterpower Funding from the U.S. Federal Government

NHA thanks our sponsors:

American Hydro

Over the past two years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been secured for the advancement of waterpower technologies. Due to lobbying efforts by the National Hydropower Association (NHA), the needs of members have been reflected in grants from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), as well as millions of dollars for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO).

With an influx of funds being directed towards advancing new and existing hydropower, pumped storage, and marine energy technologies, understanding how and where the money will be applied is critical to taking advantage of the opportunities it presents.

The power of effective advocacy is evident when examining the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations measure, as the $179 million budgeted to the WPTO would not have been obtainable without NHA members sharing their experiences and needs with lawmakers.

FUNDING OVERVIEW

The recently enacted FY 2023 Omnibus bill, which funds the U.S. Federal Government through the end of September 2023, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 29, 2022. The funding bill includes a record-setting $179 million for the DOE WPTO.

NHA has a long track record of successful lobbying in support of increased investments in the WPTO budget (see the chart here). NHA’s goal is to increase support for member research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities for advanced and emerging hydropower, pumped storage, and marine energy technologies.

The $179 million in WPTO funds are in addition to the $146 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA) for activities related to research and development for hydro and marine energy. The IIJA also provided an additional $753 million in grants for new and existing hydropower investments.

In addition, Congress provided $10 million for the U.S. Navy Energy Program to support marine energy generation systems for sensors and microgrids.

BREAKING DOWN THE DETAILS

The FY 2023 omnibus spending package (H.R. 2617) included $120 million for marine energy and $59 million for hydropower and pumped storage.

“Working together, NHA and its members have been able to grow the WPTO budget to $179 million in FY 2023, a record appropriation,” said Paul Gay, vice president at Strategic Marketing Innovations (SMI), co-chair of NHA’s Marine Energy Council, and NHA’s lead lobbyist for appropriations-related legislation. “However, the solar office received over $100 million more in FY 2023, and we need to reach a similar level of funding to accelerate the near-term market adoption of advanced hydro and marine energy technologies.”

For hydropower, the omnibus appropriations bill includes several provisions that support healthy river ecosystems. For example, $10 million was provided to continue industry-led research, development, demonstration, and deployment efforts of innovative technologies for fish passage and invasive fish species removal at hydropower facilities.

In addition, the bill includes funding for analyses of hydrologic climate science and water basin data to understand the impact of climate change on hydropower. Also included was $5 million for innovation analytics to optimize hydropower applications such as machine learning-based hydrologic forecasts and operations optimization technology advancement.

The FY 2023 WPTO funding contains significant resources for marine energy along with directive language that supports industry-led technology development efforts, university foundational research, testing facility upgrades, and other important support for commercializing the marine energy sector. In addition, Congress appropriated FY 2023 funding for the U.S. Department of Defense to support marine energy and small hydropower system developments sponsored by the Navy Energy Program and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As it relates to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Omnibus Appropriations measure provided record funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) at $3.36 billion — an increase of $260 million above FY 2022 levels.

ADDITIONAL IIJA R&D INVESTMENTS

Beyond the $179 million for spending between now and September 30, 2023, the IIJA, which was approved in 2021, included an additional $146 million for the WPTO to use for activities related to research and development for hydro and marine energy. The WPTO is in the process of preparing to release funding opportunities based on these funds provided by Congress.

The specific IIJA hydro and marine energy R&D investments are as follows:

  • $36 million for hydropower research and development activities as authorized under section 634 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
  • $70.4 million for industry-led marine energy research and development activities as authorized under section 635 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
  • $40 million for National Marine Energy Center-led marine energy research and development activities as authorized under section 636 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

NEXT STEPS

The funding in the Omnibus Appropriations measure highlights the importance of NHA members sharing their experiences with lawmakers to provide legislators with the understanding they need to support our industry.

This historic support for the WPTO would not have been possible without NHA’s lobbying efforts. You can help build on this success at NHA’s upcoming Waterpower Week in Washington conference, May 8-10, 2023, which includes an Advocacy Day on Tuesday, May 9, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Your participation will benefit the entire industry! In addition, a number of staff from the DOE’s WPTO will be in person at Waterpower Week in Washington to share plans and collaborate with the industry and other stakeholders. A list of Waterpower Week sessions can be found here.

Finally, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici from Oregon will soon be leading an effort to secure additional resources for the WPTO in the upcoming FY2024 funding cycle. NHA will be reaching out to its member organizations to provide advocacy support for this effort.

NHA will continue to work closely with the WPTO to ensure this historic funding for waterpower research and development activities supports hydropower and pumped-storage technology innovations along with accelerated commercialization of the marine energy sector.