The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) hosted its latest semiannual stakeholder webinar on April 4, 2023. The WPTO team shared information with hydropower and marine energy stakeholders about current and upcoming funding opportunities, recent accomplishments, and new initiatives.
WPTO Director Jennifer Garson began by introducing Beth Hartman, WPTO’s new Strategic Innovation and Outreach Program Manager. Hartman, who joined the team in early 2023, has more than a decade of experience in clean energy innovation and brings a focus on increasing interest in and awareness of water power technologies. “I do think that water power overall has been a little bit of the forgotten renewable,” said Hartman. “I’m definitely going to be focused on trying to change that.”
After Hartman’s introduction, Garson highlighted two recent reports: the office’s 2021–2022 Accomplishments Report, which features a selection of WPTO-supported projects helping to realize water power’s full potential, and the 2022 Peer Review Report, which details major takeaways from the office’s peer review in July 2022.
Garson next turned to the enacted budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which includes $59 million for hydropower and $120 million for marine energy research. “This is a record amount of funding, representing a 10% increase over our previous year,” said Garson.
“Outside of the Water Power Technologies Office, there's been a lot of activity focused on the water space in some of our new reorganization-aligned offices,” said Garson.
For example, the Grid Deployment Office recently opened $200 million in funding from the Hydroelectric Incentives Program. This includes up to $125 million for the Hydroelectric Production Incentives (EPAct 2005 Section 242) with applications due by May 8, 2023, and up to $75 million for the Hydroelectric Efficiency Improvement Incentives (EPAct 2005 Section 243) with applications due by June 20, 2023.
Garson also highlighted three new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded opportunities from the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations.
- A $450 million funding opportunity to advance clean energy demonstration projects on current and former mine lands. Concept papers are due by May 11, 2023, and full applications are due by August 31, 2023.
- A $15 million competition, the Energizing Rural Communities Prize, to support capacity building to remove two of the biggest barriers to improving energy systems in rural or remote areas: developing necessary partnerships and securing financing. Submissions are due by May 24, 2023.
- A $300 million funding opportunity focused on projects that increase energy affordability and promote climate resilience for remote and rural communities. Full applications are due by June 28, 2023.
Garson concluded with a reminder about the Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP), which provides technical assistance for remote and island communities to transition to cleaner and more resilient and affordable energy sources. Applications are due May 19, 2023, and applicants must consult with an ETIPP regional partner before applying.
Shifting to updates specific to hydropower, Acting Hydropower Program Manager Corey Vezina highlighted the recent selection of an American Rivers-led project, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that aims to deepen relationships and trust between hydropower and river stakeholders to better incorporate community priorities in hydropower research and development activities.
Vezina also discussed a recent memorandum of understanding between WPTO and the Tennessee Valley Authority. “We're looking at several areas of interest, including asset management, climate modeling, and advanced manufacturing,” said Vezina. “Over the next six months, WPTO and TVA will be looking to develop an action plan to outline these joint efforts.”
Marine Energy Program Manager Tim Ramsey then talked through several funding and technical assistance opportunities.
- The new Innovating Distributed Embedded Energy Prize (InDEEP) will award up to $2.3 million to competitors investigating novel technologies for harnessing and converting the power of ocean waves into usable types of energy. The first phase is now open for submissions and will close on August 25, 2023.
- An upcoming $45 million funding opportunity will advance a comprehensive approach to tidal and current energy development in the United States, ranging from funding community-led planning and project execution to making the first large-scale investment in a tidal research, development, and demonstration site.
- The Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research program supports marine energy developers seeking access to the nation’s best testing facilities and expertise. The next round of applications for technical assistance closes on July 7, 2023, and applications for open-water support are accepted on a rolling basis.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lead Ashley Brooks discussed WPTO’s workforce development activities, including the Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC) and Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC). The final events for the 2023 HCC and MECC will be held May 7–10 at Waterpower Week in Washington, D.C. Brooks encouraged anyone attending Waterpower Week to join the HCC and MECC events to engage with the next generation of hydropower and marine energy leaders and leverage the opportunity to recruit for their organization.
Brooks also shared WPTO’s recent announcement of the five students selected to participate in the Marine Energy Graduate Student Research Program. These students will undertake research to advance the understanding and development of marine energy resources through work with DOE national laboratories and other government and industry partners. Brooks noted the program is always looking for institutions or organizations with capacity to host a fellow.
The webinar concluded with Garson’s promising note on the White House’s first Ocean Climate Action Plan, a groundbreaking roadmap to advance immediate, transformational steps to protect ocean health and address the climate crisis. “This plan laid out multiple areas in which the ocean has a critical role in supporting the fight against climate change,” said Garson. “I think it's really exciting to see that marine energy is recognized by the whole federal government as a critical energy system.”
- 0:00 – Introduction by Maxine Hillman, Senior Communications Analyst
- 2:43 – Introduction of Beth Hartman, WPTO Strategic Innovation and Outreach Program Manager
- 4:25 – Jennifer Garson, WPTO Director
- 12:42 – Corey Vezina, Acting Hydropower Program Manager
- 18:56 – Samuel Bockenhauer, HydroWIRES Lead
- 28:50 – Tim Ramsey, Marine Energy Program Manager
- 42:52 – Ashley Brooks, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lead
- 51:17 – Q&A
Stay in the know with WPTO! In addition to attending these semiannual webinars, stakeholders can learn more about WPTO’s Hydropower and Marine Energy programs. Subscribe to the bimonthly Hydro Headlines and Water Column newsletters and the comprehensive, monthly Water Wire newsletter to get information on funding opportunities, events, and other news.