Recognizing the untapped potential of hydropower to lessen the nation’s carbon footprint, the U.S. Department of Energy released the Hydropower Vision: A New Chapter for America’s 1st Renewable Electricity Source report – a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind roadmap that offers a 360-degree view of the hydropower industry. Two years in the making, the report offers pathways for tapping into hydropower’s potential to increase installed capacity by nearly 50 GW by 2050.
The Hydropower Vision report fundamentally hits the reset button for our industry by ushering in a new way of thinking about hydropower, while fracturing misconceptions that we don’t have room to grow sustainably.
Clean and renewable hydropower is available and can play a larger role in securing our clean energy future. As a nation, we can look to this report as a roadmap for unlocking hydro’s potential.
Pathways for Growth
The Hydropower Vision report identifies growth potential in the following areas:
- 4.8 GW of new development on non-powered dams
- 6.3 GW in upgrades on existing hydropower
- 35.5 GW of new pumped storage projects
- 1.75 GW in new stream-reach development
Fighting Climate Change
Today, clean and renewable hydropower helps the nation avoid approximately 200 million metric tons of CO2 each year. Hydropower is already helping us fight climate change, but there is significant potential to do more. By increasing hydropower’s capacity by 50 gigawatts by 2050, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.6 billion metric tons and save $209 billion in avoided global damages from greenhouse gas emissions.
To be sure, each megawatt of power we add would have a positive impact on the communities we serve – leading to a healthier America. For example, 50 by 2050 means nearly 5 million fewer cases of acute respiratory symptoms and 750,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma.
More Hydropower = More Wind and Solar
Today, Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH) represents 97% of the nation’s energy storage. Hydropower Vision Report finds that by increasing pumped storage’s capacity by 35.5 gigawatts by 2050, we can more than double the nation’s energy storage capacity, while increasing other renewables like wind and solar.
PSH enables greater integration of varible renewables (wind/solar) into the grid by utilizing excess generation, and being ready to produce power during low wind and solar generation periods. PSH also has the ability to quickly ramp electricity generation up in response to periods of peak demand.
The Hydropower Vision Report presents a scenario under which variable renewables meet 45% of the electricity demand by 2050. As demand rises, the need for PSH becomes greater because it is complementary to other renewables.
Unlocking Hydropower’s Potential
The Hydropower Vision report puts the need to modernize the industry’s licensing process into clearer focus. While the promise of hydropower is great, today it can take ten years or more to license a hydropower project. Hydropower is severely handicapped by an outdated licensing process, conflicting priorities, competing agency authorities, and deferred decision-making.
We can’t reach 50 by 2050 without a licensing process that is timely, coherent and more collaborative.
As a nation, we have a clear choice to make about our clean energy future:
Will we stand still or unlock hydropower’s potential?