In alignment with President Biden's Investing in America agenda, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a major initiative, allocating up to $71.5 million to fund 46 hydroelectric projects in 19 states. The incentive payments, administered by the Grid Deployment Office and funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, represent the DOE's most substantial investment in hydroelectric facilities to date.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm emphasized the role of hydropower in advancing the nation's clean energy goals, stating, “Hydropower is the nation's prototype of renewable power playing an important role in deploying affordable and reliable electricity across the country.” The initiative aims to enhance the generation efficiency of the existing hydropower fleet, contributing to cost reduction and supporting the clean energy transition led by American workers.
The Hydroelectric Efficiency Improvement Incentive payments are a response to the robust interest from the industry, with applications seeking a total of $192 million in federal support. The selected projects are expected to generate a combined investment of $468 million, leveraging both federal and private funding. The upgrades, targeted at facilities with an average age of 75 years, will play a crucial role in the ongoing operation and longevity of hydroelectric assets.
Hydropower currently constitutes 27% of renewable electricity generation in the United States and 93% of all utility-scale energy storage capacity. The program's investments will not only enhance renewable electric generation but also contribute to water supply management, flood control, and recreation associated with the U.S. hydroelectric fleet and reservoirs.
The Hydroelectric Efficiency Improvement Incentives will facilitate capital improvements in selected hydroelectric facilities, focusing on turbines, generators, and water conveyance structures. The improvements are projected to increase efficiency by an average of 14%, with a minimum statutory requirement of 3% per facility.
The selected projects span across 19 states, including California, New York, Virginia, and Washington. A public webinar on February 7, 2024, will provide an overview of the selections and key trends identified. The incentives are part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's broader efforts to support and enhance existing hydroelectric facilities, ensuring they continue to provide clean, renewable electricity while addressing dam safety and environmental impacts.