NHA Launches UnlockHydro Campaign

As Congressional leaders in the House and Senate work towards passage of an energy bill, the National Hydropower Association (NHA) today unveiled a new education campaign titled, “UnlockHydro”. The campaign is aimed at generating awareness about hydropower’s ability to help the nation fight climate change and educating the public about the outdated licensing process that keeps hydropower from realizing its clean energy potential. 

At a time when the nation is looking for clean energy solutions, hydropower is hamstrung by a licensing process that lacks coordination, resulting in duplicative reviews, conflicting priorities, and deferred decision-making that delays both project deployment and real environmental improvements.

Today, you can permit a fossil fuel plant in New York City in a mere fraction of the time it takes to license a hydropower project, America’s largest source of carbon-free, renewable energy. By comparison, it only takes 18-24 months to license a Natural Gas Combined Cycle Plant.  

“As a nation, if we are serious about decreasing carbon emissions and expanding clean energy solutions, we simply can’t allow hydropower to be hindered by process that can take up to ten years,” said Linda Church Ciocci, NHA Executive Director. “Unless and until we have a system that exemplifies efficiency, timeliness and accountability, America’s largest source of renewable energy will continue to be held back. Congress has a chance to unlock hydropower’s potential to fight climate change, while protecting environmental values and providing millions of homes and businesses with access to affordable and sustainable energy. With this campaign, we hope to empower and encourage American’s to let their representatives know how important waterpower is to our clean energy future.” 

An Outdated Licensing Process

Today, of the dozens of existing hydropower projects waiting awaiting approval, nearly 40 percent have been delayed at least 5 years past the license expiration date. On top of that, nearly 20 percent of currently pending relicensing applications have been delayed at least 8 years past the license expiration date.

The problem becomes compounded when you consider that over the next 15 years, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) expects over 500 projects to begin the relicensing process, representing more than 16,000 Megawatts of installed capacity (which is about 30% of the total hydropower capacity under FERC’s jurisdiction). 

The costs and inefficiencies of the current relicensing process could render many of these projects uneconomic, risking the loss of an important renewable energy resource.

Hydropower’s Untapped Potential

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), 97% of the nation’s existing dams are not equipped to generate power. Yet, while the overwhelming majority of dams in communities throughout the country sit idle, the 3 percent of dams that do produce energy account for nearly 7 percent of the nation’s total electricity production – roughly half of our production of renewable electricity.

DOE has determined that we could to add up to 12,000 megawatts of new clean renewable capacity to our nation’s non-powered dams—enough to power nearly 5 million homes and displace the emissions of approximately 190,000,000 barrels of oil.