Upton leads subcommittee in advancing bills that promote renewable hydropower

Under the leadership of U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy approved bills on Thursday that would take steps to bolster investments in new hydropower projects that have little environmental impact and benefit the electric grid.

“Hydropower is the nation’s number one renewable, producing electricity with negligible emissions,” said Upton, the chairman of the subcommittee.

The Promoting Hydropower Development at Existing Nonpowered Dams Act, H.R. 2872, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), and the Promoting Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Act, H.R. 2880, were among the measures approved by the subcommittee.

Bucshon’s bill would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority to grant exemptions from licensing requirements to help foster development of hydropower capabilities at existing dams, where Upton said he sees the most potential for new hydropower projects.

H.R. 2880, meanwhile, aims to support closed-loop pumped storage hydropower development, which FERC describes as those projects that are not continuously connected to a naturally flowing water feature. Under the bill, FERC’s authority would be limited when handing down only licensing conditions on those projects that protect public safety or fish and wildlife.

Upton said in his opening statement at the markup of the bills that new opportunities could become available for closed-loop pumped storage, such as repurposing abandoned coal mines for hydropower projects.

Hydropower accounted for about 6.5 percent of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“With continued technological advancements and smarter regulations, hydropower generation could expand by an additional 50 percent by 2025. These two bills represent good faith efforts to increase hydropower in the United States,” Upton said.

The subcommittee also approved H.R. 1733, which U.S Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) authored to require the secretary of energy to draft a federal strategy to better reuse lubricating oil.

“Recycling used lubricating oil is good for the environment, reduces energy consumption and produces high quality products for consumers,” Upton said.