On September 9, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would distribute $13.5 million to incentivize hydroelectric generation in the United States. The financial support is part of the Hydroelectric Production Incentive Program, which provides funding for electricity generated and sold from dams and other water infrastructure projects that will add to or expand hydropower generation.
Congress authorized the Hydroelectric Production Incentive Program through Section 242 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and began funding the program annually in 2014. In November 2021, Congress directed $125 million for the program through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The goal of the program is to encourage the growth of clean energy and ensure that hydropower continues to be a reliable source of renewable energy. DOE highlights that while 31.5% of renewable electricity generation in the United States comes from hydropower, less than 3% of more than 90,000 dams in the United States actually produce power. The incentive program seeks to increase this percentage by adding generation equipment to dam sites, which would bring hydropower capacity up by 12%.
This year’s funding is going to support a record number of 55 hydroelectric facilities, and almost a third of the facilities consist of new applicants to the program. Part of the increase in applicants comes from DOE’s decision to expand the program’s eligibility criteria to include facilities located in communities with inadequate electric service. Discussing the mission of the program, Grid Deployment Office Director Maria Robinson explains that “investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law recognize that hydroelectricity is essential to strengthening the power grid and providing reliable, clean, and affordable energy for our communities. Funding through the Hydroelectric Incentive Program will enhance existing hydropower facilities through capital improvements focused on grid resiliency, dam safety, and environmental improvements, making hydropower facilities more energy efficient and resilient.”
Read more about DOE’s funding update here.