Fueling a cleaner future with hydropower
Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing the dynamic and thoughtful Gia Schneider on our podcast. I invited her to post this guest blog to elaborate on the exciting opportunities on the horizon for sustainable hydropower. — Jon Powers
By Gia Schneider, CEO & co-founder of Natel Energy
Last month, the 46th President of the United States was officially sworn into office, introducing policies to combat the effects of climate change and taking action on previously stalled infrastructure initiatives, finally making forward progress towards sustainable, renewable energy.
On his very first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris climate accord as well as push his $2 trillion climate plan into action. Biden’s plan aims to eliminate carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2035, end the Keystone XL pipeline, establish rules that limit methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations, as well as boost the economy by adding 10 million clean energy jobs.
Additionally, a stimulus bill passed in December 2020 includes $35.2 billion for energy initiatives and technologies, including $900 million for hydropower technologies and an additional $160 million for upgrades to existing hydropower generators and infrastructure that don’t currently produce electricity.
Hydropower as a sustainable solution
On October 13, 2020, the hydropower industry and river community signed a historic Joint Statement of Collaboration to discuss ways to maximize hydropower’s climate benefits, while mitigating the environmental impact of conventional dams and supporting environmental restoration.
The Joint Statement called out three primary pathways:
- Rehabilitate powered and non-powered dams that need repairs
- Retrofit (e.g., upgrade) powered dams with modern turbines and controls, add generation at non-powered dams, develop pumped storage projects, and enhance hydro operations for water supply, fish passage, flood mitigation and grid integration of wind and solar;
- Remove dams that no longer provide benefits to society, have safety issues that cannot be cost-effectively mitigated, or have adverse environmental impacts that cannot be effectively addressed.
By focusing on the rehabilitation, retrofit, and removal of existing powered and non-powered U.S. dams (the “3 Rs”), the parties to the Joint Statement aim to improve dam safety, flood protection, water security, and recreation, while also increasing reliable renewable energy generation and electricity storage capacity, better integrating variable solar and wind power, reducing environmental impacts, restoring and protecting rivers, and advancing U.S. economic development and job creation.
Harnessing the power of water
Never has humanity faced such a daunting challenge – to fundamentally alter how we interact with our Earth, our atmosphere, and each other in such a brief period of time. Yet, at the same time, never has any generation been as empowered – scientifically, technologically, and financially – with the tools and resources to proactively mitigate, adapt and address the myriad of climate challenges and opportunities we now face.
Gia Schneider was recently interviewed on Experts Only podcast. Listen to Episode 81 here.