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DOE, DOI, and Army Corps of Engineers Sign MOU on Hydropower

Niagara Falls
(cc) Royce Bair

The US Department of Energy and the US Department of Interior, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, will cooperate more closely and align priorities to support the development of environmentally sustainable hydropower. The Memorandum of Understanding represents a new approach to hydropower development — a strategy that can increase the production of clean, renewable power while avoiding or reducing environmental impacts and enhancing the viability of ecosystems. By signing a Memorandum of Understanding the federal agencies agree to focus on increasing energy generation at federally-owned facilities and explore opportunities for new development of low-impact hydropower.

“While hydropower is the largest source of renewable electricity in the nation, hydropower capacity has not increased significantly in decades,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “As the single largest owner of hydropower generation in the United States, it is important for the federal government to tap this valuable asset so it can continue to contribute to our clean energy portfolio and energy security.”

“As we build our clean energy economy here at home, we must explore and develop new technologies and new strategies for increasing hydropower generation in an environmentally sustainable manner,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “With better coordination among federal agencies, a common-sense approach, and a focus on low-impact hydropower projects, we can supply more clean power for our economy.”

The MOU between the Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, and Army Corps of Engineers aims to increase communication between federal agencies and strengthen the long-term relationship between them to prioritize the generation and development of sustainable hydropower.

Objectives of the MOU include:

  • Identifying specific federal facilities that will be well-suited as sites for sustainable hydropower.
  • Upgrading facilities and demonstrating new technologies at existing hydropower locations.
  • Coordinating research and development on advanced hydropower technologies.
  • Increasing hydropower generation through low-impact and environmentally sustainable approaches.
  • Integrating policies at the federal level.
  • Collaborating to identify total incremental hydropower resources at federal facilities.

The memorandum is supported by detailed action items that the agencies have identified as areas of collaboration, including Technology Development and Deployment; Green Hydropower Certification; Federal Inland Hydropower Coordination; Renewable Energy Integration and Energy Storage; and Regulatory Process Facilitation.

The agreement provides an opportunity for DOE to connect its hydropower research and development efforts with the agencies who own, operate, and regulate federal water projects. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation are the first and second largest hydropower owners in the United States, and their combined facilities represent approximately half of the country’s hydropower capacity (close to 34,000 megawatts).

The Department of Energy undertakes research and development to advance the performance and efficiency of hydropower technologies and works to ensure that these technologies are deployed at U.S. hydropower facilities.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation serves almost 4 million households by annually generating over 40 billion kilowatt hours at 58 power plants and an additional 1,000 megawatts at 71 private power plants.

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