Chair Rodgers Introduces Bill to Unleash Clean, Reliable Hydropower Through Innovation and Licensing Reform

Washington, D.C. – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) today introduced the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act to expand clean, renewable, reliable, and affordable hydropower production in America, as well as to promote the innovation of the next generation of hydroelectric technology. 

“As the largest source of clean, renewable energy in the country, hydropower is key to winning the future and reducing emissions. In my home state of Washington, hydropower accounts for nearly 70 percent of electricity generated in the state. The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act preserves our existing hydropower fleet and brings more power online by reforming the licensing process and promoting the innovation necessary to usher in the next generation of hydro technology. Today, only 3 percent of dams in America produce electricity. By leveraging this untapped potential for more hydropower energy, this legislation could help us double hydropower production in the U.S. without building a single new dam.” 

The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act: 

  • Confirms that hydropower is an essential renewable energy resource for all Americans by ensuring that electricity produced from hydropower qualifies as a renewable resource for all federal programs and procurement requirements. 
  • Reforms the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing process to protect existing hydropower resources and encourage the development of small and next-generation projects by:    
  • Affirming a 2-year licensing process for next generation hydropower resources; 
  • Exempting small hydropower projects that do not have significant environmental impacts;             
  • Exempting closed-loop pumped storage projects that do not utilize federal land or impound navigable waters; and 
  • Promoting innovation in turbine design and generating technology to improve performance and efficiency while protecting environmental resources and fish.      
  • Removes barriers to rapidly expanding hydropower development by identifying electricity market rules and ownership models that encourage development of conventional, pumped storage, conduit, and emerging hydropower technologies. 
  • Recognizes hydropower’s contributions to a more stable and reliable electric grid, by promoting its use to help balance electricity supply and demand and integrate intermittent power sources cost-effectively. 
  • Addresses construction barriers the hydropower industry has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic by extending the time by which a project must commence construction after receiving its license. 

The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act is supported by the following organizations: 

"This bill recognizes the crucial role of hydropower in establishing a resilient, clean electricity grid, by improving the needlessly burdensome FERC hydropower licensing process. By improved decision making and coordination among all stakeholders, this legislation addresses the excessive time, cost and uncertainty associated with the current process. With almost half of the non-federal fleet up for relicensing, this bill will protect and expand valuable hydropower assets in an environmentally responsible manner. Rep. McMorris Rogers has been a long standing hydropower champion and we thank her for continuing to push for licensing reform." – Malcolm Woolf, CEO & President of the National Hydropower Association 

“Hydropower is a clean, reliable, and abundant source of power for communities all over our country. The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act will ensure that we unleash our hydropower capabilities to secure American energy and reduce emissions. The American Conservation Coalition Action thanks Chairwoman McMorris Rodgers for her leadership on clean energy.” – Christopher Barnard, VP of External Affairs at the American Conservation Coalition Action 

"Hydroelectric power is a reliable, affordable, and clean form of energy that supports Pacific Northwest families and businesses. As a resource that can be deployed at a moment's notice, hydropower helps prevent blackouts during extreme weather events and supports reliability across the Western United States when there are peaks in demand. Hydropower relicensing reform is vital, and we are fortunate that Rep. McMorris Rodgers recognizes this valuable asset and continues advocating for the future of clean hydropower in the United States." – Kurt Miller, Executive Director of the Northwest River Partners 

“Hydropower, whether federal or non-federal, plays a vital role in sustaining system reliability and clean energy goals for millions of consumers in our country. We applaud Chair McMorris Rodgers in attempting to streamline the process for licensing and relicensing these critical domestic energy resources and for her tireless efforts in protecting existing hydropower projects.” – Scott Simms, Executive Director of the Public Power Council (PPC) 

CLICK HERE to read the full bill text.