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Murkowski Introduces Three Bills to Boost Hydropower Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday introduced several pieces of legislation that focus on promoting the development of hydropower renewable energy.

“Hydropower is our nation’s largest source of renewable energy, yet its value is so under realized,” said Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Hydro currently supplies 24 percent of Alaska’s electricity needs and there are more than 200 promising sites that have been identified around the state. It’s time we recognize hydro as the clean, renewable source of energy it is, and ensure it receives the same benefits as other renewable sources.”

The Hydropower Improvement Act (S. 629) would substantially increase the capacity and generation of clean, renewable hydropower resources by providing grant money for necessary environmental analyses and environmental mitigation efforts.

The bill also provides technical assistance in research and development to be given by the Energy Department, in consultation with the resource agencies and even the Environmental Protection Agency for necessary environmental studies.

The Hydropower Renewable Energy Development Act (S. 631) would make sure generation of hydroelectric power is treated as a “renewable” resource for purposes of any federal program or standard. Currently, only a limited amount of hydro qualifies for the Production Tax Credit and in those cases it only receives a half credit.

The bill expands the types of hydro that can qualify for the Production Tax Credit to new conventional hydro, small hydro of less than 50 megawatts, pumped storage and lake taps. The legislation also gives the qualified expanded hydro resources the full credit like every other renewable resource. This definitional change also applies to the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program.

The legislation also provides for a five-year accelerated depreciation for marine/hydrokinetic technology and conventional hydro, instead of the current 20-year depreciation period.

The Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act (S. 630) is designed to speed up development of renewable ocean energy – wave, current and tidal energy.

Specifically, the bill contains improvements to the Renewable Energy Grants Deployment Program in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, to secure funding for the program. The legislation also opens the grants program to make it available for new dam construction of any size, with preference going to locations that experience high retail electricity costs.

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