Murkowski, Sullivan Introduce Legislation to Spur Hydropower Upgrades
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-AK) introduced legislation that will help ensure that existing hydroelectric facilities are able to continue to provide emissions-free, flexible, and affordable electricity to Alaskan ratepayers. They were also original cosponsors of the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act of 2023. The measure is supported by a wide coalition of industry, environmental, and clean energy organizations.
“With energy prices impacting consumers and businesses alike, hydropower is even more important as a part of Alaska’s energy portfolio. Small hydropower projects across the state are already demonstrating innovative technologies that provide clean, affordable baseload power. This legislation, which I’m leading with Senator Cantwell, incentivizes hydropower development and taps into the immense renewable resources available in Alaska,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “With this bill, we’re spurring hydropower development in Alaska, diversifying our energy supply, reducing our emissions, and investing in Alaska’s future.”
“Nearly 30 percent of our state’s electrical energy is supplied by hydro, and the potential is even greater,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “I have long advocated for increasing hydropower as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that our country desperately needs. This bill, which includes tax credits for transmission lines, will help expand clean hydroelectricity in Alaska, lower energy costs, and expand economic opportunities for Alaskans.”
The legislation establishes a new a 30% federal tax incentive (which is also available to not-for-profit entities) to encourage upgrades to the safety and security of existing dams, investments that expand fish passage infrastructure, and improvements to water quality and recreational use opportunities at hydropower project sites. The bill also establishes the first-ever federal cost-share to encourage the removal of obsolete river obstructions that are degrading river ecosystems and inhibiting outdoor recreation opportunities.
The bill has the support of local and national power organizations, and bipartisan policy organizations.
“The Alaska Energy Authority is pleased to see the re-introduction of the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydropower and River Restoration Act,”said Curtis Thayer, Executive Director of the Alaska Energy Authority. “This bi-partisan legislation is long overdue and AEA looks forward to working with Senator Murkowski and Sullivan in advancing the bill that helps solves the needs of today and looking towards the needs of the future.”
"Thirty percent of Alaska’s electric energy comes from hydro and recent studies indicate significant opportunities for additional hydropower development. The Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act, introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Lisa Murkowski, is critically important to the continued development and enhancement of hydropower in Alaska and throughout the nation," said Crystal Enkvist, Executive Director of the Alaska Power Association. "Specifically, the 'approved remote dam' and the 'interconnection property' provisions are especially beneficial for Alaska because they allow for the construction of certain dams and the transmission necessary for those dams to be covered under a 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC). Funding support for the construction of new hydro is absolutely what we need in Alaska. In addition to funding for new hydroelectric facilities, the 30 percent ITC incentivizes environmental improvements and dam safety upgrades at existing hydropower facilities. This is must-pass legislation that moves the needle for the advancement of hydropower."
“The Alaska Independent Power Producers Association appreciates the hard work by our Alaska delegation to support hydropower,” said Joel Groves, President of the Alaska Independent Power Producers Association. “We are pleased and readily support Senator Murkowski's and Senator Sullivan's leadership on the reintroduction of the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydropower and River Restoration bill to move our Nation and our State toward a more energy secure future that comes from our nations hydropower. This legislation wisely positions America toward a brighter and more robust energy future.”
“Juneau Hydropower applauds the re-introduction of the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydropower and River Restoration Act as a long overdue piece of legislation to rightfully position good clean hydropower into our nation's energy agenda and focus. Rarely does a piece of energy and infrastructure legislation find so many wins for many Americans and position our nation for a brighter, cleaner, and environmentally responsible energy future,” said Duff Mitchell, Managing Director of Juneau Hydropower. “The legislation sponsors, Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and others should be commended for their energy and infrastructure leadership.”
“The Southeast Alaska Power Agency fully supports introducing legislation for the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydropower and River Restoration Act,” said Robert Siedman, C.E.O. of Southeast Alaska Power Agency. “Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and others are paving the way for clean, green renewable energy by recognizing that hydropower is an essential backbone to the nation’s energy portfolio.”
“Ketchikan Public Utilities in Alaska warmly welcomes the re-introduction of the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydropower and River Restoration Act,” said Jeremy Bynum, Division Manager of Ketchikan Public Utilities. “This long-awaited legislative piece is crucial for rightfully incorporating clean hydropower into the nation's energy blueprint and focus. The proposed law not only supports infrastructure critical for our nation's energy security but also fosters river restoration.”
The federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that covers hydropower only applies to investments that produce a marginal increase in power generation. Vital environmental and maintenance investments such as new fish passage to help enhance aquatic ecosystems, structural upgrades to ensure the safety of dams, and generator rewinds to improve grid resiliency that do not result in power increases are not currently eligible for this credit. With many decades-old hydroelectric dams facing costly upgrades to continue operating safely and economically, the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act of 2023 bridges the gap in current law. Examples of eligible investments include adding fish-friendly turbines or new fish ladders, managing river sediments to improve habitat, upgrading or replacing floodgates and spillways, and expanding access to public waterways impacted by existing dams.
The bipartisan bill would also support local efforts to remove non-power producing river barriers, including abandoned or obsolete dams, dikes, or embankments, allowing those rivers to run free and naturally once again. Private, state, local, and non-profit groups could use the 30% federal tax incentive, with a direct pay option, to support efforts to demolish and remove unnecessary barriers with the owner’s consent. Removing obsolete river obstructions that no longer meet their intended purpose nor benefit society can provide new outdoor recreation opportunities, create new fish and wildlife habitat, spur local economic development, and increase the resilience of rivers to the effects of climate change. Others sponsoring the bill include Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Angus King (I-Maine), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).