What role could hydropower play in a clean energy standard? During today's OnPoint, Andrew Munro, president of the National Hydropower Association, explains why hydropower is poised to play a significant role in future energy policy. He discusses the Senate's "Hydropower Improvement Act," which the Energy and Natural Resources panel is taking up today. Munro also gives his take on the three energy bills recently introduced by House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.).
Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Andrew Munro, president of the National Hydropower Association. Andrew, thanks for coming on the show.
Andrew Munro: Thank you, Monica, for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: Andrew, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is convening this week to discuss measures that discuss hydropower and the impact of energy development on water resources. How does hydro fit into the policy puzzle from a political standpoint? Is it less divisive than some of the other energy sources we're hearing discussions about?
Andrew Munro: There is a real opportunity to expand America's hydropower resources and create well-paying, family-sustaining jobs. And the old view of hydro was that, you know, for new development it's a Hoover Dam. That is not the case. There's tremendous new potential by utilizing existing infrastructure. As an example, of the 80,000 dams that exist in the US today, just 3 percent are utilized to generate electricity.
Monica Trauzzi: So why do you think it would have an easier time than, say, wind or solar?
Andrew Munro: Well, there are new hydropower technologies, and there's also new relationships that we have forged with American Rivers and the National Hydropower Association, and we're actually supporting legislation that Senators Bingaman and Murkowski have introduced, the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2011. And so we're excited about really demonstrating leadership together of how we can move our country forward and to move us in more clean energy areas.
Monica Trauzzi: Okay, and the Hydropower Improvement Act is a bipartisan effort, as you said. Will it be rolled into a broader energy package or moved through some other measure? How do you see it getting through the Senate?
Andrew Munro: Well, this is a great starting point. You know, we really support all technologies need to be on the table, and certainly hydropower is going to be part of that. I mentioned job creation opportunities; in fact, 1.4 million jobs could be developed all throughout the country. Every state benefits from hydropower. So we would do this by adding 60,000 megawatts in the next 15 years is possible. So policies like the Hydropower Improvement Act, in whatever vehicle it moves through the process, can help expand that energy by asking the government to work more efficiently to license these projects, and also support a more timely coordination of all the agencies that are involved in licensing them.
Monica Trauzzi: What does your industry's financial situation look like? I mean, are you looking for some type of incentive from the government as well?
Andrew Munro: Well, what's really great about the Hydropower Improvement Act and why it has received such broad bipartisan support is it's not new spending. It doesn't request any new money, which is very, very important to us. We currently supply 300,000 jobs across America; we believe that we can more than double that. In fact, I mentioned the 1.4 million studies -- 1.4 million jobs that could be created. This was from a ... study that also did similar studies for wind and solar. So what we were trying to do here is provide another option, another part of the solution to move our country forward in clean energy policy.
Monica Trauzzi: Okay, so we're hearing a lot about a Clean Energy Standard. How would hydropower fit into that, and exactly what percentage do you think hydro should get in a CES?
Andrew Munro: Well, absolutely hydropower is -- needs to be part of a Clean Energy Standard. In fact, we couldn't reach the goals -- and we do support -- NHA supports President Obama's State of the Union call for 80 percent of our electricity to come from clean energy sources, and NHA has committed to meeting 20 percent of that. So currently hydropower is already seven percent of our nation's energy supply and two-thirds of all energy, and by adding 60,000 megawatts we can help support those goals. So within the Clean Energy Standard, again, new technology development, we can make our current hydropower projects more efficient with modern technology that also increase fish passage capability. And this new collaboration that we have developed with American Rivers, we believe that together and with Congress on a bipartisan basis and the Administration, can help push this and provide momentum to move a Clean Energy Standard forward.
Monica Trauzzi: How confident are you that we'll see legislation in both the House and Senate on clean energy this year?
Andrew Munro: I am actually very confident because hydropower, the timing for hydropower in particular is right right now. It's an issue that is bipartisan; it's supported by both sides of the aisle. I think we as an industry can help provide that momentum, and I believe passage in this Congress is possible, not just for a Clean Energy Standard, but to really set a direction across the country and even worldwide that we are serious about our clean energy future.
Monica Trauzzi: So you're not concerned at all that there's some complacency coming from this Congress on energy?
Andrew Munro: I think we must be concerned, but I also think that we need to be optimistic. And one of the ways we've tried to do that as an industry, like I mentioned, is working with those that in the past have been our adversaries. That has changed. Just like there are new technologies that increase the hydropower capacity of our existing projects and add new capability to existing non-generating dams, we need to work together, and we need to demonstrate leadership and say, "Yeah, we can do this." There's a lot of untapped energy as well as job creation, and that's going to help our local communities and our local schools, and funding of states, which they're in dire need of right now.
Monica Trauzzi: Hydropower is currently being reevaluated by the DOE. A report is expected out next week actually on hydropower. What do you expect DOE will find?
Andrew Munro: That there is tremendous untapped potential. I think again the old mindset was, "Well, we're not going to build new Hoover Dams," that we have existing untapped infrastructure that we've already invested in as taxpayers. We have 80,000 dams, and there's very good sites that could be developed and help us achieve the 60,000 megawatts and create jobs that will sustain our families. We're all thirsting for this as a country.
Monica Trauzzi: What are your thoughts on the three bills introduced by House Natural Resources Chair Doc Hastings yesterday? They focus on energy but they leave out renewables and hydro.
Andrew Munro: Well, Congressman Hastings has been a great supporter of hydropower, and expanding hydropower is part of his focus as well. There's also interest, though, like I mentioned, on both sides of the aisle for hydropower. I think the Hydropower Improvement Act that was introduced in the Senate is a great starting point that could be considered in the House as well, and we're going to be talking to members of the House about introducing companion legislation.
Monica Trauzzi: OK. We'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show. Nice to see you.
Andrew Munro: Thank you, Monica. Nice to see you.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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