U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to last week's northeast
blackout, the National Hydropower Association (NHA) today highlighted
the importance of hydropower to our nation's electricity system and
called on Congress to adopt policies to ensure its viability and to
encourage upgrades to maximize the nation's existing hydropower
"The importance of hydropower to our nation's electricity grid was
again confirmed during last week's massive blackout," said Linda
Church Ciocci, executive director of NHA. "As we learned from several
officials, hydropower projects in upstate New York and several other
states continued to run, leading the way to restoring power to
millions of Americans," she added.
During the recent blackout, affecting an estimated 50 million
people from New York City to Michigan, hydropower facilities were the
first to be put into service to initiate grid stability and restore
power. Hydropower's unique operational characteristics allow it to
generate power almost immediately while other sources can take hours
to days to come back into service.
As during the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965, when hydropower
utilized its blackstart capability to rapidly restore service,
hydropower again came to the rescue. Within six hours of the start of
the blackout, the New York Power Authority's (NYPA) hydropower
generation was back online providing New York with 3,794 megawatts of
energy, close to 45 percent of the state's total electricity load.
Two projects, Niagara and St. Lawrence-FDR, operated continuously
throughout the blackout.
Concerns over reliability and the failure to recognize the
importance of hydropower under just such circumstances prompted NHA
to caution federal policymakers not to take hydro's important role
for granted. In its 2001 report, Keeping the Lights on With
Hydropower, NHA told policymakers that "a lack of new investments in
generation and transmission capacityÉhave raised concerns about the
security and adequacy of the system." The report focuses on the
valuable contributions hydropower makes to grid security, including
its role in past blackouts.
Noting that "system operators rely on hydropower's speed and
flexibility to meet moment-by-moment fluctuations in electric power
demand and to restore service after a blackout," the report cautioned
that hydropower's capacity, key to securing the grid, was declining
and suggested that the nation could shore up its unacceptable
reliability margins through additional investments in hydropower.
"Nationally 19,626 MW of potential hydropower, if developed, would
raise predicted capacity margins by 16 percent, surpassing levels
that exist today," states the report. In the New York/New England
region, the report cited 1,766 MW of potential power that could raise
the capacity margin by 8 percent. The Midwest region could be
increased by 11.17 percent.
But little of this clean, natural energy has been or will be
developed, and a large portion of the hydropower in operation today
is at risk, due to national policy disincentives. Unworkable
licensing policies and the failure to recognize hydropower in
renewable energy incentives have held Congress's attention for years,
but have unfortunately gone unresolved.
"As Congress prepares to reconcile differences between competing
comprehensive energy bills, it is clear that issues impacting the
hydropower resource must be resolved so that Americans can continue
to enjoy the many benefits of clean, reliable hydropower," said
Ciocci. "It is time for us to better recognize and better value
hydropower in our energy policies, including its unique and
indispensable ability to help resolve serious situations such as last
week's blackout. We are happy to work with Congress to that end,"
Hydropower is the nation's leading renewable resource, accounting
for about ten percent of America's energy. While hydropower provides
emissions-free and renewable energy, it is much more than energy. It
provides many public benefits including water supply, vast
recreational opportunities, flood control and irrigation.
For more information on hydropower and the issues it faces, please
visit NHA's webpage. Click here for a copy of NHA's 2001 report,
Keeping the Lights on With Hydropower.
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