The U.S. Department of Energy released the long-awaited Hydropower Vision report -- alongside $9.8 million in funding for hydroelectric power -- earlier today at HydroVision International 2016 in Minneapolis.
The report, officially titled, Hydropower Vision: A New Chapter for America's First Renewable Electricity Source, is the culmination of two-and-a-half years of research that included the opinions and feedback from hundreds of industry members, academia and DOE's national laboratories.
"It's been a remarkable journey where we've learned a lot," said Jose Zayas, Director, Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy, as he unveiled the report during today's opening keynote session. "But we did it."
Hydropower Vision seeks to establish a long-term roadmap for the future of the United States' hydro sector that not only advances the country's low-carbon economy, but also leverages renewable energy sources with the ultimate goal of increasing the U.S.' capacity from a cumulative 101 GW to nearly 150 GW of reservoir, run-of-river and pumped-storage hydropower by 2050.
Per the report's findings, growth potential can be attributed to:
- 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; and
- 1.75 GW in new stream-reach developments.
Framework for the report relies on three pillars -- optimization, growth and sustainability -- that DOE says are "critical to ensuring the integrity of the research, modeling and analysis" of recommendations and observations made by the study.
Per DOE, the study seeks to:
- Optimize the value and power generation contribution of the existing hydropower fleet within the nation's energy mix to benefit national and regional economies, maintain critical national infrastructure and improve energy security;
- Explore the feasibility of credible long-term deployment scenarios for responsible growth of hydropower capacity and energy production; and
- Ensure that hydropower's contributions toward meeting the nation's energy needs are consistent with the objectives of environmental stewardship and water use management.
"This has been very complex," Zayas said. "It's complex because we have a century-old industry that's filled with great stories and journeys and lessons that it's learned. And as we think about that great history, the question we were asking ourselves was, 'how do we revitalize this industry moving forward? How do we remind people that this industry matters in an ever-changing energy landscape? How do we present that incredible future that we can all work toward together?
"That's what this report is all about."
Answering those questions has largely come down to the hydropower industry's ability to quantify its virtues in monetary terms, which the report does by noting hydro could save $209 billion in avoided damages from greenhouse gas emissions, and $58 billion from avoided healthcare costs and economic damages from air pollution by 2050, in addition to 30 trillion gallons of water saved from steam generation of power plant cooling. The report also notes hydropower would support economic growth by creating more than 195,000 jobs, resulting in $150 billion in cumulative development.
"Each clean and renewable megawatt we add would have a positive impact on the communities we serve," said National Hydropower Association Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci. "The economic and societal benefits of both existing and potential new hydropower are substantial. 50 by 2050 will result in nearly five million fewer cases of acute respiratory symptoms and 750,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma."
In addition, the study notes the ever-increasing role pumped-storage hydropower will play as other renewables like wind and solar become more prevalent pieces of the U.S.' energy landscape. According to DOE, pumped-storage capacity can increase by an additional 36 GW, more than doubling the U.S.' current capacity of 21.6 GW.
"Hydropower has provided clean, affordable and reliable electricity in the United States for more than a century, and pumped-storage complements today's rapidly growing variable technologies such as wind and solar," said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, who also declared that it was time to "pick up the covers off of this hidden renewable that's right in front of our eyes" during NHA's annual conference in 2014.
"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," said Ciocci. "Clean and renewable hydropower isn’t tapped out, and it can play a larger role in helping the nation meet its clean energy needs."
HydroWorld.com will continue to provide analysis and news regarding the plan as it becomes available.