Murkowski Comments on Hydro, Energy-Water Integration Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today made the following opening statement at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on two hydropower bills and the energy-water integration portion of the 2009 American Clean Energy Leadership Act:

“As you know, I’ve long been a strong hydropower proponent.  I consider hydropower to be our hardest working renewable resource – one that often gets overlooked in the clean energy debate.

“There is no question that hydropower is, and must continue to be, part of our energy solution.  It is the largest source of renewable electricity in the United States.  The 100,000 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity we now have today provide about seven percent of the nation’s electricity needs. 

“Hydro-electric generation is carbon-free, baseload power that allows us to avoid approximately 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year.  Hydropower is clean, efficient, and inexpensive.  And yet, despite its tremendous benefits, I’m constantly amazed at how some undervalue this important resource.

“It is a misconception that the hydropower resource is tapped out.  In Alaska, hydro already supplies 24 percent of the state’s electricity needs and over 200 promising sites for further hydropower development have been identified. 

“Today we’re considering two hydropower bills I recently introduced.  S. 629, the Hydropower Improvement Act, seeks to substantially increase our nation’s hydropower capacity.  This bill has been cosponsored by a number of my colleagues on this Committee – Senators Bingaman, Risch, Wyden, and Cantwell – and I thank them for their support.

“The Hydropower Improvement Act aims to spur on the development of a wide range of conventional projects to increase hydropower production – everything from efficiency improvements and capacity additions at existing facilities; to electrifying non-powered dams; to conduits at irrigation districts; to small hydro projects; to large pumped storage facilities.  We also include federal assistance for needed environmental studies and mitigation efforts which should help all types of hydropower projects.

“The next bill we’re taking up is S. 630, my Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act.  This legislation is very similar to the marine and hydrokinetic provisions this Committee approved last Congress as part of S. 1462, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act.

“S. 630 is designed to speed up the development of renewable ocean energy – wave, current and tidal energy – in Alaska and across the nation.  The Electric Power Research Institute has estimated that our nation’s ocean resources could generate 252 million megawatt hours of electricity or 6.5 percent of our entire electricity generation.  To reach this potential though, ocean energy must gain the same financial and research incentives currently enjoyed by other forms of renewable energy.

“The final piece of legislation on today’s agenda are the Energy-Water Integration provisions that were also included in S. 1462, our energy bill from last Congress.

“The legislation addresses the relationship between water and energy production.  Given the current turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East, I find it interesting that the linkages between energy and water systems were first identified and studied in the 1970s following the OPEC oil embargo.  Since that time, however, minimal investments in research and development have occurred.

“Of course all forms of energy production, distribution and use either requires water or affects water resources in some manner.  By identifying the relative linkages between energy and water systems and key research needs, we’ll get a greater return on our investment in research, development and commercialization of energy and water technologies.”