As we previously reported, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which President Biden signed into law on November 15, 2021, included over $900 million in waterpower incentives for new and existing hydropower, pumped storage, and marine energy. Specifically, the BIL provided additional funding for the existing incentive programs established by Sections 242 and 243 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) and created a new incentive program to maintain and enhance hydroelectricity through improvements to grid resiliency, dam safety, and the environment under Section 247 of EPAct 2005.
The Hydroelectric Production Incentive Program, which Congress authorized pursuant to Section 242 of EPAct 2005, was initially funded in 2014. However, the incentive program under Section 243, Hydroelectric Efficiency Improvement Incentives Program, was never implemented by the Department of Energy (DOE) because it was never funded.
To address the implementation of the newly funded Section 243 program and to implement for the first time the Section 247 program, DOE issued a request for information (RFI) on June 30, seeking comments from industry, tribes, resource agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders on the implementation of the Section 243 and 247 programs. The RFI included five broad categories of questions. First, it requested feedback on “general” provisions, including definitions, timing of funding disbursements, and how best to collaborate with FERC’s dam safety and license compliance programs. Second, the RFI requested specific comments on the Section 243 program, including the types of capital improvements needed to improve operational efficiency by at least 3%, procedures for validating any completed improvements and the timing for doing so, and whether DOE should limit eligibility for incentive payments. Next, DOE solicited feedback on the Section 247 program, including how to prioritize the three categories of funds (grid resiliency, dam safety, and environmental improvements), what methods DOE should use to evaluate the three categories of improvements and the typical project costs, risks, and timelines for various types of grid resiliency improvements. Fourth, DOE sought comment on equity, environmental justice, and labor priorities, including what types of strategies it might use to support the concepts of equity and environmental justice and what measures applicants for capital improvement funding might take to ensure that harm to environmental justice communities is mitigated. Finally, the RFI requested feedback on how to meet the Biden administration’s goals of expanding union jobs and effective workforce development, including how to provide opportunities for workers displaced from fossil industries and strengthen local economies.
DOE provided that it will accept comments filed before 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday, September 6. It also held an informational webinar on Tuesday, August 9. Instructions for filing comments and information on the webinar are available here.