DOE launches programs to modernize U.S. hydropower fleet

The DOE today issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public feedback to inform nearly $630 million in investments in hydropower facilities.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public feedback to inform the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s nearly $630 million in investments in hydropower facilities, such as dams.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests in two programs – the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity Incentives Program and the Hydroelectric Efficiency Improvement Incentives Program – to modernize U.S. hydropower facilities and make them more energy-efficient. The funding will cover capital improvements that will allow hydropower facilities to become more grid resilient, safe, and effective. Water is a critical resource for generating clean, carbon-free electricity, and crucial to reaching President Biden’s goal of a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.

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Hydropower facilities supply 6% of all electricity in the U.S. and account for 32% of renewable electricity generation. Hydropower also provides critical energy storage, accounting for 93% of all utility-scale energy storage, helping to ensure that power is available when consumers need it. Many hydropower facilities, however, require upgrades to become more efficient or better integrated with other renewable energy sources.

The Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity Incentives Program, managed by DOE’s Grid Deployment Office (GDO), provides $553.6 million in incentive payments to enhance existing hydropower facilities through capital improvements directly related to three main areas: grid resiliency, dam safety and environmental improvements.

The Hydroelectric Efficiency Improvement Incentives Program, also managed by GDO, provides $75 million in incentive payments to owners or operators of existing hydroelectric facilities who may apply for funding to make capital improvements that can increase efficiency by at least 3%.

“Water is one of humankind’s oldest methods of generating energy, and with technological advancements, we can harness this renewable power as a core driver for the nation’s clean energy transition,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The investments … recognize that hydroelectricity is essential to strengthening the power grid and providing reliable, clean, and affordable energy for our communities as we transition to a net-zero economy.”

This RFI solicits feedback from a wide range of stakeholders — including industry, clean energy advocates and officials in areas that generate hydroelectricity — on the structure of these programs, timing and distribution of funds, definitions of capital improvements, and selection criteria. Click here to submit comments, which must be received by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Sept. 6, 2022.

The programs moving forward today are part of more than $62 billion in clean energy investments through DOE from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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