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A New Vision for United States Hydropower

The goal of the Hydropower Vision is to operate, optimize, and develop hydropower in a manner that maximizes opportunities for low-cost, low-carbon renewable energy production, economic stimulation, and environmental stewardship to provide long-term benefits for the nation.

Hydropower Vision Framework

The Hydropower Vision Report includes a Roadmap that defines a range of actions needed to realize the economic and social benefits of increased hydropower in the future. It is based on three foundational “pillars,” that are critical to ensuring the integrity of the research, modeling, and analysis in the Hydropower Vision:

  • Optimization: Optimize the value and power generation contribution of the existing hydropower fleet within the nation’s energy mix to benefit national and regional economies, maintain critical national infrastructure, and improve energy security.
  • Growth: Explore the feasibility of credible long-term deployment scenarios for responsible growth of hydropower capacity and energy production.
  • Sustainability: Ensure that hydropower’s contributions toward meeting the nation’s energy needs are consistent with the objectives of environmental stewardship and water use management.

Hydropower Vision Insights

Applying these foundational principles to both the quantitative and qualitative analyses in the Hydropower Vision led to several key insights regarding the role of existing and future hydropower in the U.S. power sector:

  • Existing hydropower facilities have high value within the U.S. energy sector, providing low-cost, low-carbon, renewable energy as well as flexible grid support services.
  • Hydropower has significant near-term potential to increase its contribution to the nation’s clean generation portfolio via economically and environmentally sustainable growth through optimized use of existing infrastructure.
  • Meeting the long-term potential for growth at potential sites that are not developed for hydropower is contingent upon continued commitment to innovative technologies and strategies to increase economic competitiveness while meeting the need for environmental sustainability.
  • Significant potential exists for new pumped storage hydropower to meet grid flexibility needs and support increased integration of variable generation resources, such as wind and solar.
  • The economic and societal benefits of both existing and potential new hydropower, as quantified in this report, are substantial and include job creation, cost savings in avoided mortality and economic damages from air pollutants, and avoided GHG emissions.

The Hydropower Vision analysis finds that with continued technology advancements, innovative market mechanisms, and a focus on environmental sustainability, U.S. hydropower could grow from its current 101 gigawatts (GW) to nearly 150 GW of combined electricity generating and storage capacity by 2050.

Read more about the Hydropower Vision Report and its findings on the future of hydropower in the United States.