In December 2022, several federal agencies announced awards and recommendations for Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funding. The BIL represents a core piece of President Biden’s agenda and provides significant funding for infrastructure improvements in energy and water, including over $900 million in waterpower incentives for new and existing hydropower, pumped storage, and marine energy. Funding is also provided to incentivize research, development, demonstration, and commercial application (R&D) efforts in the water power industry for technologies that improve capacity, efficiency, resilience, security, reliability, affordability, and environmental impact.
The Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) Water Power Technology Office (“WPTO”) announced $5.6 million for hydropower projects, which includes several commitments to research improving fish passage, including predicting and reducing strikes, researching costs, and innovative sea lamprey collection. Other R&D announcements involve enhancing the understanding of climate change impacts and advancing dam safety and cyber security projects.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) recommends nearly $105 million in federal funding for 36 fish passage projects, which are intended to reopen migratory fish pathways, restore access to healthy habitats for fish, and build Tribal capacity to participate in developing and implementing fish passage project. These projects will collectively remove culverts, rebuild bridges, remove barriers and non-powered dams, and remove and replace certain fish passage infrastructure.
The recipients of this funding are primarily Tribes, states, and non-governmental organizations. Hydropower projects with a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license were not eligible to apply for the NOAA funding solicitation.
However, many BIL-related funding initiatives are still being developed by the federal agencies. Particularly, the BIL directed $553.6 million to DOE for this new program, which will provide incentive payments to support and enhance existing hydropower facilities through capital improvements directly related to three main areas: improving grid resilience, improving dam safety, and environmental improvements. These hydroelectric incentives are set to be announced in early 2023.