EPA excludes hydroelectric power from CPP incentive program

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An investment program established as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan is drawing criticism from members of the hydroelectric power sector for its exclusion of hydro-related benefits.

Called the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), plan "is designed to provide additional incentives for early investments in zero-emitting wind or solar generation, and energy efficiency in low-income communities."

A letter from the National Hydropower Association, submitted to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in advance of the agency's January 21 comments deadline, reflect what many in the hydropower industry perceive as unreasonably skewed toward the wind and solar sectors.

"Although NHA supports the CEIP in concept, we do not support the current design or eligibility requirements as it arbitrarily chooses winners and losers among renewable energy technologies in overcoming the challenges related to climate change," NHA wrote in the letter. "As such, to realize the CEIP's full potential and to meet its stated purpose of deploying carbon reducing investments as early as possible, especially reliable baseload renewable resources, the CEIP should be modified to include hydropower, in all its forms, as an eligible renewable technology."

The incentive program and the Clean Power Plan (CPP) it would bolster are both components of the EPA's ambitious goal of reducing the United States' carbon emissions by more than 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.

As such, the EPA has justified the exclusion of hydropower from the CEIP with three primary arguments, NHA said, including:

  • The timeframe related to developing various renewable energy projects;
  • Providing incentives to execute on planned investments in order to avoid shifting investments toward natural gas; and
  • Urgency in meeting the challenges of climate change.

NHA addresses each at length in its 10-page letter, available for viewing via the association's website here, while adding that the final version of the plan published in the Federal Register in October does not recognize new federal hydropower generation under the CPP or as a compliance option in individual states' plans.

The controversial CPP has faced opposition from a number of states -- primarily those whose whose business and industry sectors are tied to fossil fuel resources -- though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order denying a request for a stay that would have barred the plan earlier this month.

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