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Ottawa, Canada — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 22 February 2011 – Ambitions for a better economy and a need for more clean energy in the United States are driving Canada’s efforts to fund and expand its hydro resources.

Canada is already the world’s second-largest hydropower producer behind China, and it is bent on producing more, driven by its potential for hydropower generation and demands for more clean energy in the U.S.

It’s a major element of Canada’s plan to boost its economy, as lawmakers attempt to wean the country off coal-fired power through landmark legislation that encourages the development of renewable energy, especially hydropower.

“The federal government is intending to introduce legislation to reduce emissions pretty significantly from coal-fired plants,” said Canadian Hydropower Association chairman Colin Clark. “I think that creates an opportunity for hydropower.”

In the U.S., where restrictions on carbon emissions are pending and demand is growing, there’s a big market for Canada’s hydropower resources, he adds. A handful of deals to export that power to the U.S. have already been made and more are looming.

“The U.S. is constrained in how it can develop its own generation systems because of uncertainty around carbon,” said Dan McCarthy, president and CEO of Black & Veatch Water. “Canadian hydro companies have an opportunity to take advantage of that uncertainty and get some power purchase agreements in place.”

Hydro-Quebec and Public Service of New Hampshire plan to build a 140-mile transmission line that will bring up to 1 200MW of Canadian hydropower to central New Hampshire. In another agreement, Hydro-Quebec will provide up to 225MW of hydropower to two Vermont utilities, Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power, for 26 years beginning in 2012.

Canada, home to about 475 hydro-electric plants with a capacity of 70 000MW, produces about 355 terawatt-hours of hydropower each year. But the country’s untapped potential is far greater.

According to a study commissioned by the Canadian Hydropower Association, Canada has 163 000MW of untapped hydropower potential “’ more than twice the country’s existing hydropower capacity.

Already, hydropower accounts for 60% of Canada’s electricity consumption. That number is sure to rise as construction of several new hydro-power plants near completion while more coal-fired plants are shuttered in the name of clean air.