The U.S. Department of Energy published a study examining the electricity potential at existing dams that aren't designed to produce power. The report found the untapped energy potential represents 12 gigawatts, roughly 15 percent of the current hydropower capacity in the United States.
"Together with new advances and innovations in hydropower technologies, the resource assessment released today can help use our existing infrastructure to further develop the country's significant waterway resources," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.
The report found that around 4 million households could get electricity if the more than 54,000 non-powered dams in the United States were utilized for electric power.
A U.S. House of Representatives bill passed in March on its way to the U.S. Senate that streamlines the process for the development of hydroelectric power on existing canals and other waterways controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
U.S. President Barack Obama has set a goal of getting 80 percent of the nation's electricity generated from renewable energy resources by 2035.