Hydropower and Marine Energy Funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

In its first month in office, the Biden administration set an ambitious, yet worthwhile goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. To support this goal, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)—the largest federal investor in clean energy—will lead the charge as America makes this historic transition to a 100% clean energy future. With the clean energy investments in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the administration has already taken significant strides toward this goal. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a key piece in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, includes more than $62 billion for DOE to deliver a more equitable clean energy future for the American people. 

As part of its aim to broaden communities’ access to clean energy, the law provides $910 million for hydropower and marine energy programs under DOE, including $753.6 million for hydropower facilities to improve efficiency, maintain dam safety, reduce environmental impacts, and ensure generators continue to provide emission-free electricity. The water power-specific provisions for DOE are under Division D—Energy, Subtitle D—Hydropower and Title X—Authorization of Appropriations for Energy Act of 2020: 

  • SEC. 40331. HYDROELECTRIC PRODUCTION INCENTIVES. (Revising Section 242 of EPAct05). This section authorizes $125 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 for hydroelectric production incentives until expended.
  • SEC. 40332. HYDROELECTRIC EFFICIENCY IMPROVEMENT INCENTIVES. (Revising Section 243 of EPAct05). This section authorizes $75 million for FY 2022 for hydroelectric efficiency improvement incentives until expended.
  • SEC. 40333. MAINTAINING AND ENHANCING HYDROELECTRICITY INCENTIVES. (Adding a new incentive Section 247). This section directs the Secretary of Energy to make incentive payments to the owners and operators of hydroelectric facilities for capital improvements related to maintaining and enhancing hydroelectricity generation by improving grid resiliency, improving dam safety, and environmental improvements. This section authorizes $553.6 million with half of the funding provided in FY 2022 and the other half provided in FY 2023. Funds will remain available until expended.
  • SEC. 40334. PUMPED STORAGE HYDROPOWER WIND AND SOLAR INTEGRATION AND SYSTEM RELIABILITY INITIATIVE. This section directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a demonstration project for a pumped storage hydropower project to facilitate the long duration storage of intermittent renewable electricity. This section also establishes specific eligibility criteria. $10 million, or $2 million every year, are authorized for the period of FY 2022-2026.
  • SEC. 41006. WATER POWER PROJECTS This section authorizes $146.4 million for FYs 2022-2025 for hydropower and marine energy and National Marine Energy Centers. This breakout of this funding is $36 million for hydropower, $70.4 million for marine energy, and $40 million for the National Marine Energy Centers. 

FY 2022 Appropriations for WPTO

On Friday, March 11, 2022, President Biden signed the omnibus spending package for FY 2022. The package provides $162 million for the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO). This represents an increase over the office’s prior year budget level and the office’s largest annual budget to date. 

Of the $162 million, Congress directed WPTO to spend not less than $47 million on hydropower and not less than $112 million on marine energy. Congress also provided $3 million not prescribed to either program, which WPTO intends to direct to hydropower research. 

Within the Hydropower Program budget, the agreement specifically directs $5 million for innovative technologies for fish passage and invasive fish species removal at hydropower facilities, as well as analysis of hydrologic climate science and water basin data to understand the impact of climate change on hydropower. It also provides up to $10 million combined for hydroelectric production incentives and hydroelectric efficiency improvement incentives under sections 242 and 243 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. 

Within the Marine Energy Program budget, the agreement provides not less than $24 million for the Powering the Blue Economy initiative, $5 million for the environmental analyses and engineering of potential run-of-river hydrokinetic facilities at two sites which currently use diesel and experience high electricity costs, and up to $5 million to support the newly established Atlantic Marine Energy Center. The agreement also provides up to $20 million to address infrastructure needs at marine energy technology testing sites and to support planning activities for a potential ocean current test facility.  

Through the agreement, Congress also reiterated direction for WPTO to support industry-led competitive solicitations to increase marine energy capture technologies; foundational research activities led by universities and other research institutions affiliated with the National Marine Energy Centers; the continued development and construction of the PacWave test facility; the continuation of the Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research (TEAMER) Program; and continued coordinating with the U.S. Navy and other federal agencies on marine energy technology development for national security and other applications. 

FY 2023 Budget Request for WPTO

President Biden unveiled a $5.8 trillion budget request on Monday, March 28, 2022, for FY 2023. Of the $6.3 billion requested for DOE, $190.5 million was requested for WPTO. If passed by Congress, this would represent a 27% increase in WPTO’s budget compared to FY 2022.

For more information about the request and areas of emphasis for WPTO, see DOE’s FY 2023 Congressional Budget Justification.

Water Power Technologies Office Budget Over Time

In FY22, WPTO received $3 million in funding untied to either program. These unallocated funds will be directed to the hydropower program. 

Note: This graph shows annual appropriations and enacted funding only. This graph does not reflect the nearly $1B of BIL funding for hydropower and marine energy.