The 2023 edition of the U.S. Hydropower Market Reporthighlights market developments from 2020 to 2022 (since the publication of the 2021 edition of the report) and contextualizes this information with evolving high-level trends observed over the past 10 to 20 years. The report also discusses differences in those trends by region, plant size, owner type, and other attributes. It combines data from public and commercial sources, as well as research findings from other U.S. Department of Energy research and development projects, to provide a comprehensive picture of developments in the U.S. hydropower and pumped storage hydropower (PSH) fleet and industry trends. 

The 2023 publication is the fourth complete edition of this report. (The first three were published in 2015, 2018, and 2021.) In intervening years between publishing the full reports, researchers summarize and release updated data, which can be found on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) HydroSource website.  

Key Findings: 

Hydropower in the United States: 

  • U.S. conventional hydropower capacity increased 2.1 gigawatts (GW) from 2010 to 2022 due to a combination of upgrades to existing plants (1.6 GW), new projects (0.7 GW), and retirements (-0.2 GW). Hydropower generation (262 terrawatt-hours) represented 6.2% of total U.S. electricity generation and 28.7% of electricity from renewables in 2022.
  • Non-powered dam retrofits account for 95% of all proposed new hydropower capacity in the United States. 
  • At least 11 hydropower plants in the United States have added or are planning to add battery capacity to their facilities, a promising trend for hydropower in the future.
  • From 2020–2021, the average annual U.S. net hydropower generation was only 4.2% lower than the average annual generation in the previous decade, despite extreme drought in parts of the West.
  • From 2019–2021, the average hydropower availability factor (i.e., the percentage of hours in a year in which a hydropower unit is not offline because of a planned or forced outage and is, therefore, available to operate) was stable at 79% for small units, 83% for medium-sized units, and 78% for large units.
  • Based on interviews conducted with hydropower industry stakeholders in 2021, key challenges faced by the U.S. hydropower supply chain are limited workforce availability and the difficulty of domestically procuring steel castings heavier than 10 tons and stator windings for large turbine-generator units.
    • Potential ways to address these issues include additive manufacturing as well as federal procurement rules and federal incentives to spur reshoring. Expanding apprenticeship programs and developing hydropower curricula and other educational resources are among the opportunities being pursued to strengthen the hydropower workforce pipeline.
  • Of the 167 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-licensed hydropower and PSH projects due to start the relicensing process between 2018 and 2022, 155 of them (93%) have initiated the process, and they accounted for 99.9% of the capacity due to start relicensing during that period (8 GW).
  • The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 contain significant authorizations for incentives for the U.S. hydropower fleet and industry; these are expected to stimulate investment in the existing U.S. hydropower fleet and construction of new nonfederal hydropower projects in the coming years. 

PSH in the United States: 

  • PSH capacity increased 1.4 GW over the past decade with 97% of this increase due to upgrades to the existing fleet. 
  • The United States currently has 43 PSH plants with an estimated energy storage capacity of 553 gigawatt-hours. These plants accounted for 96% of utility-scale energy storage capacity in 2022. 
  • U.S. PSH projects in development have increased 43% over the past three years. (There were 96 in development in 2022 compared to 67 in 2019.) Despite the projects in development, the United States is one of the only regions in the world with no projects under construction. 
  • Since 2021, two more states (Maine and Connecticut) adopted storage mandates—requirements for utilities to have a specified amount of energy storage capacity in their resource portfolios by a specified deadline—and three others (Illinois, Vermont, and Michigan) are considering them. 

Hydropower Globally:

  • Global investment in PSH continues to grow, with 56 projects under construction worldwide. When completed, these new projects will increase global PSH capacity by 38%.
  • Although hydropower (including PSH) still represents the largest share (40%) of renewable electricity generation capacity worldwide, other renewable energy technologies have grown much faster in recent years. 

Previous Hydropower Market Reports:

2021 Hydropower Market Report

The January 2021 edition of the U.S. Hydropower Market 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).

Read the report to learn more:

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