Hydropower Vision: A New Chapter for America’s 1st Renewable Electricity Source

July 26, 2016

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Through the Hydropower Vision, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office has led a first-of-its-kind comprehensive analysis to evaluate future pathways for low-carbon, renewable hydropower (hydropower generation and pumped storage) in the United States, focused on continued technical evolution, increased energy market value, and environmental sustainability. Download the full Hydropower Vision report.

Executive Summary

The Hydropower Vision analysis finds that U.S. hydropower could grow from 101 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2015 to nearly 150 GW by 2050. Under this scenario, $209 billion in savings from avoided global damages from greenhouse gas emissions is possible, including $185 billion from continuing to operate the existing hydropower fleet through 2050. With this deployment level, more than 35 million average U.S. homes could be powered by hydropower in 2050.


Chapter 1: Introducing the Hydropower Vision

Chapter 1 explains the process for interpreting hydropower’s future market potential from technical resource assessments, using computational economic and dispatch models. Chapter 1 also describes innovations and nontraditional approaches in project development and applications of advanced technologies that could transform development of new hydropower projects in the decades to come.


Chapter 2: State of Hydropower in the United States

Chapter 2 summarizes the status of hydropower in the United States within eight topic areas: history, contributions, and context; role in the grid; markets and project development economics; opportunities for development; design, infrastructure, and technology; operations and maintenance; pumped storage; and socioeconomics.


Chapter 3: Assessment of National Hydropower Potential

Chapter 3 applies detailed electric sector modeling and impacts assessment to explore an array of possible futures for the hydropower industry and to better understand a subset of the quantifiable impacts associated with multiple scenarios.


Chapter 4: The Hydropower Vision Roadmap: A Pathway Forward

Chapter 4 provides a detailed roadmap of potential technical, economic, and institutional actions by the hydropower community to optimize hydropower’s continued contribution to a clean, reliable, low-carbon, domestic energy generation portfolio while ensuring that the nation’s natural resources are adequately protected or conserved.



The appendices include a glossary, assumptions, models and model results, and a contributor list.