Recent legislative proposals in a number of states across the country have reignited the debate over how  ‘sustainable’ hydropower actually is,  and if it is truly emissions free. California’s Assembly Bill 1771, which was rejected in the state legislature this past April, would have allowed large hydropower facilities to contribute toward state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). As a growing number of states establish increasingly ambitious targets for shares of energy production from renewable sources, there has been ongoing discussion about what types of hydropower should be included in these RPS schemes.

In the United States, state regulators divide hydro into two categories – small and large – depending on the facility’s installed generating capacity. For example, California considers any facility with at least 30 megawatts (MW) of capacity to be ‘large hydro’. Currently, utilities in most states can count only ‘small hydro’ toward RPS targets.

Zipingpu Dam in China's Sichuan Province

California’s Assembly Bill 1771 is neither the first nor the only proposal of its kind. As states that have implemented RPS programs scramble to reach their renewable energy targets, the movement to count large hydro towards these goals has gained momentum.  Similar bills have been proposed in California in the past, as well as in Minnesota. North Dakota currently counts all hydropower in its RPS, including power imported from Manitoba, but stipulates that large hydro facilities must have been placed in service on or after Dec. 31, 2010. Wisconsin will allow utilities to count hydropower from large facilities starting in 2015. 

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carbon sinks, hydropower, large hydro, low-carbon, renewable energy, renewables, small hydro, sustainability

Earlier this year The Worldwatch Institute went to Santo Domingo for the 2011 Caribbean Clean Energy Business Forum. Alexander Ochs, the Director of our Climate and Energy team, presented on our Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap methodology and upcoming work in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica.

Other presenters included Rene Jean-Jumeau, the Coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit at the Haitian Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications and one of our key partners in Haiti. He spoke about the Haitian energy system and the needs and opportunities for investment in renewable energy.


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biomass, Caribbean, Caribbean renewable energy, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Low-Carbon Development, Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap, low-carbon roadmap, renewable energy, small hydro, solar, wind

Sunrise in Punta Cana

Worldwatch’s Energy and Climate team is busy implementing a one-year initiative, funded by the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America (EEP), to develop a Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap for wind and solar power in the Dominican Republic. We will soon begin a similar project in Haiti and Jamaica and expand our work in the Dominican Republic to include other resources, including biomass, with the sponsorship of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

Through these initiatives, we are taking a holistic approach to documenting the potential for low-carbon development, which we believe will provide insights directly useful to policymakers and business leaders. The first half of the project has yielded good results, and we hope it will be the first of many such projects for our Caribbean Program.

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3TIER, biomass, BMU, Caribbean, Dominican Republic, EEP, Haiti, IKI, Jamaica, Low-Carbon Development, Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap, oil imports, REEEP, renewable energy, small hydro, solar, wind