On March 10, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) hosted its semiannual stakeholder webinar. WPTO organizes these webinars every few months to provide updates to stakeholders on the latest WPTO funding opportunities, program accomplishments, and project updates. Among other topics, speakers highlighted historic investments in hydropower and marine energy and a focus on inclusivity.

Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), kicked off the event by discussing the water power funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which allocates nearly $1 billion for DOE’s water power programs. This includes $753.6 million for hydropower incentive programs and $146.4 million for WPTO for fiscal years 2022–2025 with $36 million going to hydropower, $70.4 million to marine energy, and $40 million to the National Marine Energy Centers.

“The law also provides much more funding in DOE-led clean energy programs as well,” said Speakes-Backman, referring to both existing and new DOE programs, such as the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations. “These new investments are going to help put America on this irreversible path that we’re carving out for ourselves to achieve a 100% clean energy grid by 2035 and a clean energy economy by 2050.”

Speakes-Backman stressed that hydropower is a critical contributor to the American power system, though its role will continue to evolve as the country decarbonizes its power system. As for marine energy, which she called “the world’s largest untapped renewable energy resource,” she believes power generated by the ocean could make a significant contribution to the United States’ energy profile.

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The leadership team at the Water Power Technologies office looked back at some of their biggest accomplishments from the last year and previewed what’s yet to come during their Semiannual Stakeholder Webinar on March 10, 2022. Plus, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kelly Speakes-Backman spoke to administration priorities for the coming year as well as the investment in water power projects that will come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
U.S. Department of Energy

In addition to looking to the future, the webinar discussed recent WPTO accomplishments and successes. WPTO Director Jennifer Garson shared the release of the WPTO 2020–2021 Accomplishments Report, which features 48 projects from across the office’s Hydropower and Marine Energy programs, including new tools and resources for project developers, in-water deployments of emerging technologies, and innovative efforts to grow the number and diversity of students involved in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“It really gives you a sense of the projects that we have in our portfolio and what we’ve been up to for the last year,” Garson said. “It’s amazing to see all that our office and our partners have accomplished, particularly given the challenges of the pandemic.”

Garson also shared WPTO’s first Multi-Year Program Plan, which details the office’s research, development, demonstration, and commercial activities across both hydropower and marine energy for the coming years and outlines how these efforts can help meet the nation’s energy and sustainability goals.

Throughout the webinar, speakers emphasized diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how DOE can ensure upcoming investments in water power benefit all communities. Speakes-Backman believes reaching out to a broader group of stakeholders and thinkers will be crucial to developing the solutions necessary to achieve a clean energy future.

“As one of the largest funders of clean energy technologies development, EERE really needs to be accessible to innovators and communities of all backgrounds,” Speakes-Backman said. “We need to fund the broadest possible range of solutions, and we need to make sure this transition is just and equitable for all,” she said, referring to the transition of the U.S. grid to clean energy.

Webinar timestamps:

  • 0:00 – Introduction by Maxine Hillman, Communications Analyst
  • 2:30 – Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for EERE
  • 15:30 – Jennifer Garson, WPTO Director
  • 25:23 – Corey Vezina, Hydropower Technology Manager
  • 34:30 – Samuel Bockenhauer, HydroWIRES Lead
  • 42:45 – Tim Ramsey, Marine Energy Program Manager
  • 53:00 – Tessa Greco, Powering the Blue Economy Lead
  • 1:00:40 – Ashley Brooks, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lead
  • 1:03:46 – Q&A with WPTO

In addition to hosting its semiannual stakeholder webinar, WPTO offers several ways to stay up to date on the office’s efforts to enable research, development, and testing of new technologies to advance marine energy as well as next-generation hydropower and pumped storage systems. Stakeholders can learn more about the Hydropower and Marine Energy programs on the WPTO website and receive the latest information on funding opportunities, events, and other news by subscribing to the monthly Hydro Headlines and Water Column newsletters, as well as the comprehensive, bimonthly Water Wire newsletter.