Warm reception for U.S. hydropower

April 24, 2013 at 8:01 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 24 (UPI) -- U.S. legislation under consideration for hydropower improvement is viewed favorably by federal energy regulators, FERC Energy Director Jeff Wright said.

Lawmakers heard testimony over a pair of bills meant to make it easier to develop hydropower resources. A measure introduced by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission new permitting powers.

Wright testified that he supported the draft regulation but said his ability to speed permitting processes was limited.

"We have been able to issue some licenses in a matter of a few months," he said. "It is not clear that the commission, under its existing authorities, can mandate a shortened process."

Critics of the legislation said it would sideline review processes for hydropower, while supporters said many of those are redundant.

Murkowski said hydropower is a renewable resource that may get overlooked when compared with wind or solar power. The National Hydropower Association reports that hydropower makes up the bulk of the installed renewable electricity capacity in the United States, however.

Wright said he backed the Senate proposals in general.

"There is a great deal of potential for the development of additional hydropower projects throughout the country, including small projects and marine and hydrokinetic projects," he said.

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