Despite criticism in the last few years over hydroelectric power depleting fish populations, a comeback adding 40,000 megawatts to the grid by 2025 is predicted. Accounting for over 7% of electricity generation (compared to other renewables at 3%), the U.S Department of Energy allocated $50 million in spending for 2013 after spending nothing since 2007. Adding hydroelectric capacity to over 80,000 dams is one plan to increase electrical generation across the grid bodes some serious upfront costs (three dams in Ohio cost ~$1 billion), but a payoff after thirty years and little maintenance for the next seventy. This method would be cheaper than building new hydroelectric power plants; there is also little demand for new dams, so outfitting already existing dams fits into the government’s strategy for renewable energy. Licenses governing over 11,000 megawatts of hydropower will expire within the next ten years. Renovation and further research is currently being allotted by the U.S. Department of Energy in partnership with other governmental agencies in order to maintain hydroelectric power as a key source of the nation’s power supply.
Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil-Works discusses the partnership,
“It will help meet the Nation’s needs for reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable hydropower by building a long-term working relationship, prioritizing similar goals, and aligning ongoing and future renewable energy development efforts between DOE, DOI, and the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Consumers are affected with lower electricity costs; hydroelectric plants’ primary source of cost comes from fixed costs of building. However, in times of drought, such as the current state of California, the potential energy may decrease, which can affect supply. Large upfront costs and a long payback period also gathers skepticism. With large corporations like Apple including hydropower in their long term sustainability plans, perhaps there is more than meets the consumer’s eye.
Read more here – “U.S. Departments Extend Partnership to Advance Hydropower,” (U.S. Department of Energy)
Ethica Burt works with CR as a Marketing Fellow. She is in her final semester as an undergraduate of George Washington University where she studies International Business and Sustainability. As a fellow she focuses on researching consumer issues whilst also bringing awareness to the organization as a whole.