Emrgy: Reimagining Hydropower Technologies

Emrgy is expanding America’s hydropower portfolio with an exciting new twist on reliable, affordable, modular hydropower. The company has innovated hydropower to reduce new builds’ capital and regulatory challenges by making its turbines smaller and more modular.

Biomass Hybrid CDR Solutions 101

Pore Space 101: Carbon Capture Can't Rock and Roll Without Storage

To Escape China’s Supply Chain, Embrace a Diverse Clean Energy Portfolio (The Hill)

This op-ed was originally published by The Hill on June 10, 2022. Click here to read the entire piece.

COVID-19 and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine have demonstrated the fragility of global supply chains. While America’s industrial base has shown strong resilience, a more enduring threat to our clean energy supply chains continues to grow: dependence on materials and manufacturing controlled by the Chinese government.

On June 6, the Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act to accelerate the domestic manufacturing of solar panels and other technologies for which America is import-reliant. This builds on the administration’s goal, announced last year, for solar to supply 40 percent of U.S. electricity by 2035, up from 4 percent today.

While solar power certainly has a role to play, the U.S. should avoid overreliance on any one form of energy and instead embrace a diverse portfolio of affordable, reliable and clean energy technologies.

Conservative policymakers are advancing a comprehensive strategy to support a broad range of domestic energy sources. Last week, U.S. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), House Select Committee on Climate GOP leader Garret Graves (R-La.), and others from their Energy, Climate and Conservation (ECC) Task Force rolled out part one of a six-part plan to tackle the ongoing energy crisis and the global climate challenge.

The GOP task force pillars include policies to unlock America’s abundant energy resources, promote technological innovation and empower American entrepreneurs to build with a modernized permitting process — all of which are necessary to defeat China and Russia and restore U.S. energy dominance.

Click here to read the full article

America’s Energy Storage Workhorse, Pumped Hydro, at the Races Once Again

Introduction To Hydropower

Duke’s Bold Step for Clean Energy Transition

North Carolina utility, Duke Energy announced a bold plan to decrease carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030 and ultimately be net-zero by 2050. This means the company would be among the first major investor-owned U.S. utilities to set forth an ambitious plan to transition to clean energy.

After demonstrating that clean resources are market-competitive energy solutions for customers, the path to achieve emissions reductions is more clear and a long-term commitment to clean generation was needed. The company’s 24 million customers across six states have already seen a 31% percent reduction in emissions since 2005 by receiving more of their energy from cost-effective carbon-free power — primarily nuclear, hydro, natural gas, wind and solar.

We applaud Duke's plan to utilize all clean energy sources to reach their commitment and their intention to lean in on energy innovation to create the new technologies needed to achieve their goal. Their plan notes that they know how to achieve a 50% reduction in emissions with existing clean technologies but also recognizes the need for new technologies to emerge to ensure a clean and affordable path to a net-zero power system by 2050. This is a realistic perspective that underscores the need for innovation in the sector and we are glad Duke is making innovation a priority.

Further, the natural gas revolution right here in the United States has already lowered power prices AND cut grid emissions by 20% single-handedly. Duke recognizes that natural gas infrastructure will be required to fuel this transition to a low-carbon future and will be deploying natural gas to maintain reliability while also expanding energy storage, energy efficiency and infrastructure capacity.

There are exciting options for new zero-emission natural gas plants, such as the NET Power pilot plant near Houston, TX which will allow using our natural gas abundance well into a clean energy future. NET Power LLC is a Durham, North Carolina-based company owned by 8 Rivers Capital LLC and they have pioneered new technology to capture all carbon dioxide air emissions that can then be safely buried underground or used to great products like building materials or carbon fiber. A generous new federal tax incentive for carbon capture signed into law last year might make the clean fossil fuel route Duke’s best bet for affordable 24/7 power.

While Duke is planning to invest $10 billion to double their wind and solar portfolio by 2030 if not before, they will also continue to operate their existing carbon-free technologies, including nuclear and hydro. Nuclear power produces carbon-free energy, runs 24/7 and is incredibly resilient in the face of increasing natural disasters. This is particularly important as Duke’s nuclear fleet creates more than 11,000 megawatts of carbon-free generation in the Carolinas -- enough energy to serve 8.8 million homes. Keeping these plants open also helps support innovation in the nuclear space in North Carolina - which is home to many start-ups that are focused on fourth generation nuclear power plants.

Hydropower is the renewable source with the best track record of reducing emissions in the U.S. and abroad. It's clean, safe, and dispatchable when we need it. The U.S. hydropower fleet produces enough clean electricity to power more than 20 million households each year, making it the fourth largest electricity source after natural gas, coal and nuclear. In the North Carolina, hydro produces 10% of clean electricity generation in the state.

Seeing private industry take big bold steps with market based solutions that will also make sense for consumers is the right path to take us through this transition. But we should also continue advocating for sound public policy at the federal and state levels that advances technology and innovation. This includes longer-lasting battery storage, new nuclear technologies and effective ways to capture carbon emissions.

Duke Energy is Committed to Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

With their bold commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Duke continues to lead in American power. Market signals like these demonstrate that transitioning to clean energy can be as positive for affordability and reliability as it is for addressing climate change.

We look forward to working alongside Duke to encourage federal investments in clean technology. Innovations in advanced nuclear, carbon capture for coal and gas, and battery storage will ensure this clean path is affordable for consumers.

View more news on power company commitments to lowering emissions:

National Journal: Power-Sector Climate Pledges Revive Debate Over Clean-Energy Mandates

Colorado Springs Gazette: GUEST COLUMN: Xcel taking a bold step into the unknown

View more of Our Take and let us know what you think at jaylistens@clearpath.org.

2018: Turning The Corner Toward U.S. Clean Energy Dominance

The U.S. has upended the global oil and gas market thanks to the domestic shale revolution. We can dominate the clean energy market in the same vein, but to do it we need innovation and a long-term vision.

2018 is the year we can turn the corner. And we have to. Energy is the largest market in the world. Oil and gas is the now. But clean energy, including capturing carbon from fossil production, is the future. And a $1 trillion-plus market the U.S. can lead.

China’s booming investment in nuclear, solar, grid-scale storage and other advanced technologies threatens to leave the U.S. far behind in the global clean energy race.

2017 did have its fair share of successes towards growing U.S. clean power leadership.

Four things that excited us the most in 2017

1. Biggest carbon capture coal plant opens on time and on budget: Petra Nova, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture facility, located near Houston, got up and running in January on time and on budget, showing definitively that this technology works. Subsequently, the system reached the “1 million tons of carbon dioxide for use in enhanced oil recovery” milestone in late October.

2. The U.S. recommitted to nuclear power: The Trump administration launched a comprehensive review of policies impacting the sector led by the White House. Both the Office of Nuclear Energy and ARPA-E released advanced nuclear energy funding opportunities. A DOE proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was intended to help nuclear earn its true value as one of our most resilient power sources. And the administration stepped in to help secure the future for Georgia Power’s Vogtle plant, which the Georgia Public Service Commission subsequently unanimously decided to continue building.

Watch: How ARPA-E Can Modernize Nuclear Power

3. Solar breakthroughs beyond silicon: DOE announced awards to breakthrough Perovskite solar technology, thin solar panels that you can print like newspapers. Having announced success on their 2020 SunShot cost target through silicon panels, DOE is now focusing on a 2030 vision for three-cent solar with next-generation technology like Perovskites, while Republican House energy appropriators encouraged them to focus on this type of breakthrough. Perovskite technology kept up with the hype breaking records for higher efficiency and record stability.

4. TerraPower and China: One of the most unheralded clean energy developments was China completing a joint venture agreement with the Bill Gates-funded Terrapower to develop a world-first highly advanced nuclear reactor using the spent fuel of other nuclear reactors. The joint venture will build and commercialize a travelling wave reactor, one of the most promising new advanced nuclear technologies.

China Stretched Clean Energy Race Lead

But by stretching its lead in the global clean energy race through such actions as the joint venture with Terrapower, China also underscored how much we in the U.S. need to step up our game this coming year.

While the U.S. struggles to build two AP1000 reactors and is closing plants, China is capitalizing on our technologies. They are currently constructing 22 reactors, and have a plan for 136. China is commandeering advanced nuclear technology we never commercialized or have otherwise abandoned. They are about to commission the first high temperature gas reactors in decades globally, and just began construction of their first commercial scale sodium fast reactor.

And with Russia and China exporting nuclear tech to Iran and Pakistan, it’s a security risk for the U.S. to abandon the industry, as we have in the last few decades. In short, there is much more to be done.


Here’s what needs to happen in 2018

1. Congress must expand and extend key tax incentives - including 45Q for carbon capture and 45J for advanced nuclear

2. DOE’s budget must refocus on truly revolutionary clean energy technologies, establishing "moonshot" goals for our nation’s laboratories and creating a pathway for the the private sector to develop and commercialize these breakthroughs.

Watch: Rich Powell testifies before House subcommittee on moonshot goals

3. NETPower fires up. The 50-MW zero-carbon gas plant in Texas should be running in early 2018. The revolutionary technology uses carbon (rather than steam) to turn the turbine to make electricity, and can cheaply capture all the carbon from coal or gas. If this works as promised, it will be the biggest energy breakthrough since fracking, changing the world and expanding clean energy.

Watch: The Carbon Capture Game Changer

4. Battery storage starts competing with peaker plants. Falling costs of lithium-ion batteries mean that utilities may soon choose to build a big battery instead of a gas peaker plant, to run on just the highest demand days of the year. Minnesota sees this as economic in a couple more years, while California is seriously considering a battery peaker right now.

2017 may have been merely a crossroads for U.S. global clean energy dominance, but 2018 has the potential to be a truly banner year.

With your help, we at ClearPath intend to make that potential a reality.

Jay and Rich

View more of Our Take and let us know what you think at jaylistens@clearpath.org.

Hydropower 101

Small Hydropower, Big Opportunity

The future of U.S. hydropower no longer looks like the Hoover Dam – but more like your bathroom sink.

There are new ways of creating electricity from existing flows of water, be it pipes in municipal systems or an irrigation canal on a ranch.

These systems harness the same force of flowing waters that is used by dams and large hydro projects via turbines, such as those designed by Oregon-based Lucid Energy, Washington-based Soar Hydro and Georgia-based Emrgy.

The umbrella term for these projects is “conduit” or “energy-recovery” hydropower.

The reality is that big, conventional hydropower has stalled for the past two decades, leaving a giant hole for small hydro to fill. No large hydropower projects have been built in the United States for decades because the prime dam locations have been developed. In terms of capacity, 76 times more hydropower was built in the 1960s than in the 2000s.2

Despite the slowdown, the Department of Energy found that the industry could realistically grow by 50% by 2050 with advanced hydropower technologies that don’t rely on new dams.4

There is a growing realization broadly in the Trump administration and Congress that we need to do more to tap hydropower (pun intended) due to its huge potential, high reliability and low cost. President Trump has said hydropower is a “great, great form of power,” but “we don’t even talk about it because the permits are virtually impossible.”

That’s about right. But that also may about to change. Here’s why the reason may center less on the bigger projects and more about what many of us can do on our own land.

The potential
There is enormous potential in small hydropower projects.

The U.S. has 1.2 million miles of water supply mains.5 Within these water pipes alone, there are thousands of hydro generation opportunities. According to an estimate by the Department of Energy, the potential of energy-recovery hydropower projects could be more than all the new conventional hydropower projects built in the USA over the past decade (1.7GW of conventional vs. up to 2GW of energy-recovery hydropower potential).6,7

The tens of thousands of U.S. water and wastewater systems are among the country’s largest energy consumers (½ as much electricity we all use for lighting8, which is A LOT), most of which is used to power pumps that move water around.9 We can turn many of them from being purely power consumers to generators. And fully tapping conduit hydropower potential could translate to more than 10,000 new jobs.10

Energy-recovery hydropower is environmentally friendly – there are no fish in our pipes and the water would be transported anyway. Not only does it create clean electricity, it also makes use of energy that would have been otherwise wasted.

These are the prime reasons environmental groups, notably American Rivers, rallied behind streamlining the permitting process behind these types of projects a few years ago. Let that sink in.

Congress overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan hydropower bill in 2013 to speed up the approval of energy-recovery hydro projects. But lawmakers are now looking to go even further.

A bill from Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) would cut the federal review process in half for small energy-recovery projects. FERC Deputy Associate General Counsel John Katz, at a House hearing, actually went a step further, suggesting that the review period should be cut by 75%.

That’s right, a regulator proposed a change that would speed up review times. Must be a good idea.

Streamlining permits
When putting a small pump in an irrigation canal to get water to their fields, ranchers don’t need to go to the federal government to get approval. Yet, a conduit hydro device the size of a pool pump must receive permission from the government. We can’t illustrate this enough: this is private land, private electricity use and private man-made systems. And it still needs federal approval despite having virtually zero environmental impact.

Despite the large opportunity, the industry is still at a standstill with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission only approving a few dozen projects per year. At this rate, it would take about 200 years to tap all of our energy-recovery hydropower potential. Municipal water owners and farmers, with no experience in dealing with FERC, are understandably wary of engaging in the process on their own. And hiring a regulatory compliance consultant can increase project costs by 30%.

The 2013 bill trimmed a years-long federal process to just months, yet the obvious question remains – why should these small conduit projects need federal approval at all?

The hydropower industry is not looking for a government handout, it’s just looking for government to get out of the way.

View more of Our Take and let us know what you think at jaylistens@clearpath.org.


  1. Lucid Energy 
  2. National Hydropower Asset Assessment Program 
  3. National Hydropower Asset Assessment Program 
  4. US Department of Energy 
  5. National Geographic 
  6. Energy Information Administration 
  7. US Department of Energy 
  8. Energy Information Administration 
  9. Congressional Research Service 
  10. Environmental and Energy Study Institute