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Bush backs licence changes

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) has welcomed news that President Bush has given the green light to hydro licensing reforms.

The president’s energy package recommends that federal agencies clarify the licensing process while preserving environmental goals.

Giving equal consideration to power and non-power values is not only possible, but long overdue, according to Philip Dutton, president of the nha. ‘For too long, a severely flawed licensing process has weakened our ability to maintain a clean, renewable and reliable hydropower capacity and bring needed environmental improvements to rivers,’ said Duttom. ‘The president’s energy package gives Congress a green light to reduce exorbitant costs and excessive delays of relicensing while maximising environmental improvements at hydropower projects.’

Relicensing hydro plants in the US takes three times the time it takes to relicense a nuclear plant. ‘The federal licensing process for hydro power takes too long and costs too much,’ added Dutton. ‘It suffers from dispersed authority and a lack of co-ordination among many federal and state agencies with no-one ultimately in charge. A single project can take 8-10 years to relicense and costs millions of dollars. Worse, the resulting licence often fails to balance the competing demands for the resource and ultimately fails to be in the highest public interest.’

The Bush energy plan recommends that federal agencies ‘make the licensing process more clear and efficient, while preserving environmental goals’. It specifically calls on Congress to legislate reforms to the licensing process, for federal resource agencies to resolve conflicts sooner, and for FERC to set ‘appropriate’ deadlines for its actions.

According to the NHA, the package also hints at future support for hydro production incentives and research and development projects.

Around one-half of US licensed hydro capacity (929,000MW) is up for renewal over the next 15 years. The cost faced by project owners to process these 242 licence applications is US$2.5B, or $85,000/MW, on top of a 4% loss in generation.