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US hydroelectric sector could create 700,000 jobs by 2025

The hydropower industry in the United States could add 60 GW of renewable energy to the country’s electricity grid by 2025, while creating 700,000 new jobs.

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) commissioned Navigant Consulting to conduct a study on the hydroelectricity industry’s potential for job creation and capacity growth. The results rely on information from industry experts, government officials and existing data, and suggest that the US industry could increase its current installed capacity of 100 GW by adding 60 GW of capacity through new technologies, efficiency improvements and research and development.

“The hydropower industry is prepared to double its current capacity of clean, domestic, renewable waterpower resources,” says NHA president Andrew Munro of Grant County Public Utility District in Washington state. “Hydropower offers tremendous potential for America to double is renewable energy production, provide reliable electricity for American families, and create thousands of new jobs.”

The additional capacity could serve 17 million homes, the equivalent of all homes in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago combined. The domestic hydropower industry currently employs 300,000 people and, as it grows, every region will see additional jobs and new economic opportunities, the report notes.

The study examined the hydropower industry’s potential under two different scenarios: ‘business as usual’ where renewables generate 10% of total US electricity and 'accelerated case' where national policies mandate 25% generation from renewable energy. Both scenarios assume that hydropower continues to provide 7% of total US electricity, and that demand for power grows by 2% a year.

Under the BAU scenario, 23.3 GW of new capacity is added and 238,000 jobs are created in 15 years. Under the accelerated scenario, 60 GW is added and 700,000 jobs are created.

“Both hydropower and pumped storage serve the country in many different ways,” adds NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci. “Current hydropower capacity alone helps us avoid 225 megatonne of carbon dioxide emissions annually, so the contributions are significant.”

NHA wants the US Congress to enact a national renewable energy standard that recognises and supports hydropower; support long-term tax incentives that give hydro parity with other renewable energy; accelerate licensing for pumped storage and small hydro; and expand federal R&D funding for hydropower technologies.

“Hydropower must play a critical role in our national energy, environmental and economic policy,” adds Church Ciocci. “NHA stands ready to work with all policymakers who pursue development of America’s critical hydropower resources.”

“Hydropower is already an important source of good-paying, high-quality jobs for workers across the country,” says James Lautar of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers. “A national investment in hydropower will help grow American jobs for decades to come.”

Hydroelectric facilities also foster the growth of other renewable energy resources, the report explains, by providing load firming and energy storage to maximise the benefits of solar and wind resources.

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