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US FERC launches process to speed hydro licensing

Highlights

Law mandates action on existing dams, pumped storage

Final rule slated for April; guidance to come in September

Washington — Responding to a new law, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is outlining a plan to ensure that licenses can be issued within two years for certain hydro facilities, including projects that add hydropower facilities to existing, non-powered dams.

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The rules are significant because they would shorten the current permitting process and provide certainty to project sponsors. Hydro advocates say there is up to 5,000 MW of potential power at existing dams, but they worry that permitting can take up to 10 years under current rules.

NEW LAW

The plan was spurred by S. 3021, which was signed into law on October 23. The law required FERC to issue a rule within six months to speed permitting for qualifying facilities at existing non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects.

The law also required FERC to work with other federal agencies to develop within a year a list of existing non-powered federal dams that have the greatest hydro potential. And it mandated that FERC hold a workshop and develop guidance for adding closed-loop pumped storage projects at abandoned mines.

APRIL RULE

For the expedited licensing processes, FERC will issue a proposed rule in January and a final rule in April, according to a Tuesday notice.

In February, FERC will hold the workshop on closed-loop pumped storage projects at abandoned mines. In August, the commission will issue the list of non-powered federal dams, and in September, it will issue the guidance for closed-loop pumped storage projects at abandoned mines.

-- Kate Winston, kate.winston@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Annie Siebert, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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