Electricity liberalisation law must define hydro as renewable

The US hydroelectric industry has called for hydropower to be classified as a renewable energy source - and for it to benefit in the same way as other renewables - when the Senate's plans for liberalisation of the US energy market are completed.

In a letter to the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the National Hydropower Association (NHA) urged senators to include hydropower in any renewable energy provision contained in the Electric Restructuring Bill.

The letter argues that hydropower faces significant disadvantages as a result of market liberalisation – particularly the loss of generation during the relicensing process. These disadvantages, the NHA says, require similar counter-measures to those proposed to help other renewable sources of power in the free market.

The Association particularly wants any provisions contained in the Bill that benefit renewables – such as the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – to include hydropower. At the very least, the NHA argues, hydro producers should be exempt from having to buy renewable energy credits. And, says the NHA, any incentive payments for renewables should include incentives specifically aimed at hydropower schemes.

The Committee recessed in May after a round of hearings on electricity industry restructuring identified a number of areas of contention, including whether to include hydropower in an incentives package for renewables. The row is threatening to prevent the introduction of a comprehensive bill and lead to legislation that only addresses reliability issues. Democrats want renewables provisions to be included in the Bill, but have only promoted packages for non-hydro renewables. Republicans have rejected an incentives programme that doesn’t include hydropower.

The NHA’s demand comes shortly after the publication of a New Scientist article claiming that the World Commission on Dams had found hydroelectric power schemes may release more greenhouse gases than large coal-fired power stations (see related story).

Nevertheless, the NHA letter is sticking by its claim that hydropower has a significant contribution to make to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (ghg). “The New Scientist took a particular case and broadened it to besmirch a whole industry,” a NHA spokesperson told edie. “If you site a project in the tropics and you don’t clear the vegetation, it will create emissions. But that’s not how the hydropower industry operates. Generally, reservoirs are very competitive with air and water standards.

“The World Commission on Dams has already written a letter criticising the ‘unduly simplistic impression’ given by the New Scientist article. Once calmer and cooler heads look at the subject more seriously, the idea that hydropower is renewable will prevail.”

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