Hydropower’s Current and Potential Role in the Nation’s Energy Mix
Policymakers at all levels of government are examining the implications of climate change on the environment, economy, and energy security of the United States. Crucial to the climate debate and general environmental policy discussions is the need to approve policies to promote the development, deployment and expanded use of existing renewable resources, as well as innovative new technologies, that can play a significant role in addressing these issues while maintaining a reliable and affordable electricity supply system. Hydropower of today and new water power technologies of tomorrow can provide significant benefits to these national energy and environmental goals.
Hydropower’s Energy Contribution and Benefits
Currently, hydropower provides sizeable benefits. As the leading renewable energy resource in the country, it accounts for 7% of all of the nation’s electricity in terms of actual generation and approximately 9% in terms of actual capacity. Overall, hydropower accounts for 77% of actual renewable electricity generation and 83% of the nation’s renewable energy capacity.
As an important source of electricity, hydropower offers advantages over other generation options. Importantly, hydroelectric units are able to start, stop, and change output quickly, which provides important grid stability and reliability benefits. As such, hydro has the ability to firm intermittent resources such as wind and solar, a benefit which comes all the more important as the nation and states move to incorporate more renewables in their energy portfolio. Finally, hydropower’s non-power benefits include water supply, flood control, irrigation, navigation and recreation.
Finally, by relying on hydropower technologies to generate 7% of the nation’s electricity, the country avoids millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Hydropower use accounts for...