US energy
Steven Chu
Washington DC, United States — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 06 May 2011 – The US Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the US Army Corps of Engineers are quietly laying the groundwork for a renewable energy boom that will be totally unexpected.

What they have done is announced a memorandum of understanding to work together to support environmentally sustainable hydro-power. They’re not talking about building new dams, which have questionable environmental benefit, but rather of removing barriers to developing cost-effective hydropower at existing dams and waterworks.

It points out that hydro-power does not get much attention from investors, largely because of the lack of growth. As energy secretary Steven Chu said, “While hydropower is the largest source of renewable electricity in the nation, hydropower capacity has not increased significantly in decades. This new initiative won’t bring US hydro-power growth up to the levels we’ve recently seen in wind or solar, but it should provide an opportunity for nimble renewable energy developers with some experience in hydro-power to build profitable installations on Federal dams,” he added.

This new inter-agency cooperation is important, the memorandum, said. With the three relevant Federal agencies working together to remove barriers to development on federally owned facilities, hydro-electric developers can be reasonably confident that their investments in planning will eventually bear fruit in new hydro-power generation, and not be blocked at the last minute by unexpected red tape

This can be viewed as part of a pattern of the Obama administration promoting renewable energy by administrative means now that legislative action looks unlikely. Other manifestations of this trend include the Administration’s recent short-list of renewable energy projects being given priority in the environmental review and public participation process, and the DOE’s work marking out National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors.

Quite often, the barriers to clean energy are not financial, but rather the bureaucratic red tape put forward by a system that was designed for an outmoded energy paradigm, says the report. In an era of limited budgets, attacking these important non-financial barriers makes both environmental and fiscal sense, it adds.