Facilitating Regulatory Process Improvements

Red Rock Hydroelectric Project located just outside of Pella, Iowa, on the Lake Red Rock Dam. Photo credit Missouri River Energy Services.

Project Background

In 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimated that there was a potential for 12 gigawatts of new hydropower in the United States by adding power at non-powered dams. Assessments by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) agreed that at least six gigawatts of that potential existed at USACE facilities.

Because of this potential, and because of consistent feedback from developers and agency staff that the licensing and permitting processes are redundant and inefficient, DOE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory embarked on the Facilitating Regulatory Process Improvement project, which was completed in FY2016. Through moderated and facilitated discussions, USACE and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff worked to develop an addendum to an Interagency MOU on Non-Federal Hydropower Projects that describes the agencies’ intent to coordinate their responsibilities for authorizing non-federal hydropower projects.

Review Process Timeline

In July 2016, USACE and FERC senior leadership signed the updated MOU on Non-Federal Hydropower Projects, which facilitated the development of hydropower by synchronizing each agency’s permitting process. The MOU outlines a Phase 1 coordinated environmental review followed by a Phase 2 engineering and technical review. It offers project developers an approach designed to improve efficiency with the FERC and USACE processes, reducing permitting times, providing a single environmental document, and ensuring more certainty and less risk.