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Alejandro Moreno returns to the Energy Department to lead the Water Power Technologies Office.

Alejandro Moreno returns to the Energy Department to lead the Water Power Technologies Office.

Alejandro Moreno recently joined the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) as director and will lead the hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) portfolios. The Energy Department (DOE) is nothing new to Alejandro, who worked as a team lead at DOE for Hydropower and Ocean Energy from 2008-2012. Even at an early age, water was important to Alejandro and he fondly recalls playing in the waterfalls as a child below the Falls Village Hydro Station in New England—one of the oldest hydropower plants in the United States. Years later, it’s become a passion. He sat down with me recently to discuss what brought him back to DOE, where the industry’s been – and where he sees it going.

You come to us from positions at the International Finance Corporation and The World Bank. What brings you back to water?

I’ve always kept a close eye on the industry. As the first person to lead the water team, the success of the office and the industry is close to my heart. It’s also an exciting time for water. It’s clear that hydropower, as a low cost and flexible energy resource, has a significant role to play in the power grid. At the same time, MHK energy is starting to show what it can do, with nearly full-scale devices in the water and ongoing development of new ways to increase energy capture from waves and currents.

How does your experience at The World Bank help you in this new role?

My work centered on making it easier for the private sector to invest in power generation. Recently, I focused on how to move beyond the “first generation” of renewable energy support policies–fairly blunt mechanisms like feed-in tariffs, for example—to understanding what’s needed from power systems as a whole to integrate large amounts of solar and wind power. This hammered home the value of hydropower, which can generate power when needed and provide critical services to the grid.

My experiences at The World Bank were instrumental in understanding more about the context in which hydropower and MHK operate—among other renewable technologies and in the power system as a whole. Being there when solar power reached grid parity in many countries left a lasting impression. The speed at which solar has taken off from pre-commercial to a low-cost solution for power generation highlights the importance of the type of work DOE does.

What excites you most about the office’s recent accomplishments?

The office has done so much toward making the full potential of water power a reality. The Hydropower Vision, for example, showed that major hydropower resources are left untapped, and it reinforced the tremendous value of hydroelectricity to the stability of the grid. It also confirmed that modern hydropower can be perfectly compatible with protecting the ecological integrity of our waterways, an important goal that we all share.

In MHK, the Wave Energy Prize competition showed us that big advancements can be made in the performance of wave energy conversion (WEC) technologies, which will lead to major cost reductions. DOE set a goal to double WEC performance. We saw four teams exceed that benchmark, and the winning team outdid it by five times. We also just announced that Oregon State University will lead the construction of a national grid-connected, open-water test facility pre-permitted for multiple WEC types.   

How do you plan to lead the office and grow hydropower into a prosperous and productive future?

The only way I can do this is by going out and meeting with the people and organizations who live and breathe this industry every day. If you are one of the more than 50,000 Americans responsible for keeping our country’s critical hydropower infrastructure up and running, or someone who has spent sleepless nights designing and building new systems to deliver reliable, affordable energy from our waterways and oceans, I want to meet you.