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"Blue Gold" Report details new hydroelectric possibilities within existing infrastructure

The Hydro Research Foundation released a policy report, "Blue Gold: Building new Hydropower with Existing Infrastructure" which highlights how consensus policy federal and state policy changes can unleash substantial new development of hydropower utilizing existing water infrastructure.
The consensus policy recommendations from the Blue Gold report were developed during a 2014 meeting convened by the Hydro Research Foundation to discuss policy reforms needed to accelerate development of hydropower.  The report's recommendations have been supported by both the hydropower industry and the environmental community.

The policy reform recommendations from the Blue Gold report include the following:

Proposed Federal Executive Action
  • Allocate a percentage of the DOE hydropower budget to distributed hydropower.
  • Prepare a DOE distributed hydropower market status report.
  • Prepare a distributed hydropower roadmap as part of the DOE hydropower vision report.
  • Complete a nationwide resource assessment focused on distributed hydropower that could be developed using existing water distribution systems. 
  • Disseminate hydro policy best practice information.   
  • Streamline US Army Corps of Engineers permitting processes for hydro development so projects can complete federal approvals expeditiously.
  • Increase federal procurement of hydropower by including distributed hydropower as an eligible resource type for federal agency procurement. 
  • Highlight distributed hydropower as an attractive compliance option under the EPA Clean Power Plan.
  • Implement a FERC rulemaking to add existing dams to the type of projects under 5 MW eligible for the “regulatory off-ramp” created by the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 to include non-controversial distributed hydro projects which can meet criteria as determined by FERC staff for a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Categorical Exclusion.  
Proposed Federal Legislation
  • Exclude small (under 5 MW) conduit hydropower projects from having to file with FERC for projects which entail no changes in water diversion from an existing natural waterway.
  • Reauthorize the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Sections 242 and 243 hydro incentive payments program and provide ongoing appropriations.
Proposed State Action
  • Treat distributed hydropower the same as other distributed renewable energy technologies in state renewable energy incentive programs. 
  • Include distributed hydropower as a compliance option in development of state Clean Power Plans.
  • Coordinate Federal and State environmental and permitting processes for hydropower.
  • Add hydropower as an eligible project type to existing state loan and grant programs for water infrastructure.

The Blue Gold policy recommendations build upon the success of recent federal hydro reform legislation. In August of 2013, two federal small hydropower reform bills were signed into law aimed at simplifying permitting requirements for hydropower:  H.R. 267, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, and H.R. 678, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act.  Both bills were passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Obama.   

The Blue Gold report is the third product of the New Hydropower Innovation Collaborative.  Earlier this year, the Foundation released the “New Pathways Report” which outlines technological innovations which would accelerate the deployment of new hydropower.  In addition, the Foundation’s “On Line Technology Catalog” provides information on recent hydropower projects and vendors who focus on new, smaller projects.

Additional information:
Full report

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