Hydropower’s Role in a Changing Energy Market
Presented by Dave Steindorf (American Whitewater) and Eve Vogel (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
In the past 25 years US (and Canadian) electric systems have changed dramatically, with some regions adopting competitive markets, and all regions embracing an array of institutional deregulations that have changed the players and incentives shaping our electric grids. Thanks to markets and deregulation, there have been improved efficiencies, a shift away from coal toward gas, new ways to incentivize investments in desired resources like renewables, and new constellations of political control and financial flows with less transparency. Now, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are coming online at a rapid rate, causing power markets to shift dramatically. These changes have impacts on how hydropower projects are operated and the underlying economic viability of some projects. This 101 talk on how regional electric grids and markets work, and how hydro fits in to the electricity landscape, will help river advocates engage in discussions about project economics in a meaningful way during relicensing, and begin to think about coming issues for hydropower in the continuing energy transition.