The January 2021 edition of the U.S. Hydropower Market Report is the third complete edition of this report (the first two were the 2014 and 2017 Hydropower Market Report published in 2015 and 2018, respectively). In intervening years between publishing the full report, updated data are also summarized and released, and can be found at the Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) HydroSource website. This report combines data from public and commercial sources, as well as research findings from other U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) R&D projects to provide a comprehensive picture of developments in the U.S. hydropower and pumped-storage hydropower fleet and industry trends.

The report highlights developments in 2017–2019 (the years for which new data has become available since the publication of the 2017 Hydropower Market Report), and contextualizes this information compared to evolving high-level trends over the past 10–20 years. Apart from presenting trends over time, the report discusses differences in those trends by region, plant size, owner type, or other attributes. This “In Brief” section highlights some of the key points of interest, including charts and visuals, from the seven chapters in the report. 

Additional updates to the report were released in September 2021 and October 2022.

Key Messages

  1. U.S PSH capacity grew over the past decade by almost as much as all other U.S. energy storage combined (almost all growth of other storage occurred over the last decade, and was mostly all batteries).
  2. Interest in PSH in the U.S. continues to grow significantly (doubling of project pipeline over 5 years).
  3. Geographic interest in U.S. PSH has expanded (new projects being explored in PA, VA, WY, OK, OH, NY).
  4. Significant, growing interest in PSH internationally (53 gigawatts (GW) of capacity across 50 projects were under construction globally at the end of 2019).
  5. Hydropower generation (274 TWh) represented 6.6% of U.S. electricity generation and 38% of electricity from renewables in 2019 (Canadian imports contributed an additional 36 TWh of hydroelectricity in 2019).
  6. Hydropower “punches above its weight” regarding provision of various ancillary services (compared to % of installed capacity, in nearly every region and metric analyzed, including black start, 1-hour ramps, frequency regulation and reserves).
  7. In 2019, hydropower capacity (80.25 GW) accounted for 6.7% of U.S. installed electricity generation capacity (hydropower capacity has increased by a net of 431 megawatts (MW) in 2017-2019 mostly through capacity increases at existing facilities, new hydropower in conduits and canals, and by powering non-powered dams).
  8. 670 MW of hydro (129 Projects) have licensing completed but have not moved into construction (more than half of the projects had been in that state for 3 years or more).
  9. FERC relicensing activity is set to more than double in the coming decade (almost half of the PSH fleet).

    Past Hydropower Market Reports:

    2017 Hydropower Market Report

    The 2017 Hydropower Market Report provides industry, policy makers, and other interested stakeholders with important data and information on the distribution, characteristics, and trends of the hydropower industry in the United States. Hydropower currently accounts for 7% of installed generation capacity, and 43 pumped-storage hydropower (PSH) plants provide 95% of the nation’s utility-scale electrical energy storage.

    Key findings from the 2017 Hydropower Market Report include:

    • U.S. hydropower grew nearly 2 gigawatts over the past decade as owners optimized and upgraded existing assets and some new projects were constructed. Growth was seen in all regions of the country.
    • The value of hydropower’s flexibility is important, and likely increasing. As the U.S. generation mix changes to include more variable renewable resources like wind and solar, hydropower provides necessary flexibility and reliability services to the grid. From 2005–2015, the use of variable renewables in the United States has increased from 2% to 11%. An analysis of many different U.S. electricity markets shows that hydropower assets are being utilized equally—and in many cases more intensely in providing ancillary services—than natural gas plants (one of the most flexible generation assets available).
    • The hydropower industry still faces challenges as the power sector evolves. Availability factors have decreased in the last decade, which presents a challenge to new hydropower development, increases the operations and maintenance costs of aging infrastructure, and  requires plants to be operated in new and different ways.
    • The United States has the 3rd largest hydropower and PSH fleet in the world, and the 7th largest PSH pipeline.

    Read the report to learn more:

    2014 Hydropower Market Report

    The U.S. hydropower fleet has been an important source of flexible, low-cost, and reliable renewable energy for more than 100 years. No document existed that comprehensively summarized the current status of hydropower in the United States, so DOE commissioned Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to write the first-ever U.S. Hydropower Market Report in 2014. The report provides industry and policy makers with a quantitative baseline on the distribution, capabilities, and status of hydropower in the United States.

    Updated data from 2016 and 2017 highlights trends in the nation’s hydropower fleet and provides information on the planning and development of new hydropower projects. Data and figures on national and regional trends are also available for download on this page or on ORNL’s NHAAP website. The next Market Report is planned for release in 2018.

    Read the report to learn more:

    Hydropower News