Green Groups Are Divided Over Proposal to Boost the Nation’s Hydropower

"The new bill would shorten the permitting process for some projects, with a focus on converting old dams that don’t currently produce electricity into ones that do."

"America’s hydropower industry is hoping to reestablish some of its former glory by making itself central to the nation’s transition to clean energy—and it’s turning to Congress for help.

The era of big dams arguably ended long ago. At one point referred to as “white coal,” hydropower was once a major source of electricity around the country, with the United States building more than 150 dams on the Columbia, Missouri and Colorado River basins in the 30 years following World War II. But today, hydropower provides just a small fraction of the nation’s electricity and is quickly being outpaced globally by its clean energy rivals in new development.

Now the industry, with help from a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers, hopes to change that trend. They argue that hydroelectric dams can provide the kind of steady flow of power that’s needed to provide stability and reliability to the energy grid, especially on cloudy days and windless nights.

Earlier this year, two U.S. senators—Republican Steve Daines of Montana and Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington—introduced a bill that would speed up the licensing process by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for an array of hydroelectric projects, with a focus on converting many dams that don’t currently produce electricity into ones that do. A Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee began initial hearings on the bill in mid-July."

Wyatt Myskow and Kristoffer Tigue report for Inside Climate News September 1, 2023.

Source: Inside Climate News, 09/05/2023