by Michael Harris
President Donald Trump said yesterday that he would like to see the United States further increase its hydroelectric capacity, while again mulling re-entry into the Paris Climate Agreement.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, the President said, "One of the great assets of Norway is a thing called 'water'. And they have tremendous hydropower. Tremendous."
Indeed, hydro makes up the vast majority of the Scandinavian country's overall power supply -- 96.3%, to be exact -- according to government bureau Statistics Norway.
"I wish we'd do some of that," Trump said. "Hydropower is fantastic, and it's a great asset that you have."
The remarks echo statements made by Trump last April, when he said hydro is a "great, great form of power" and "one of the best things you can do."
Unveiled at the United Nations Conference of Parties in 2015, the Paris Climate Accord is a sweeping document signed by hundreds of countries -- including the U.S. under President Barack Obama -- that would establish long-term ecological and economic targets aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement June 1, with the White House claiming the agreement would cost the country nearly $3 trillion in reduced output, and the loss of six million industrial and three million manufacturing jobs.
Even at that time, the President indicated he might be willing to reconsider its withdrawal the Paris Accord, should he deem terms to be more favorable to the U.S.
Trump doubled down on that sentiment yesterday, saying the treaty is "an agreement that I have no problem with", but one "[the Obama administration] signed because as usual, they made a bad deal."
The President also criticized terms of the Nationally Determined Contribution established by Obama under terms of the Paris Accord that set a goal of the U.S. cuttings its greenhouse gas emissions by 28% of its 2005 levels by 2025.
The agreement is legally in place until 2019, though the Trump White House is ignoring it, saying the NDC's 2025 target puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.
U.S. interest in hydro still strong
Despite ambiguity toward other renewables under the Trump administration, support for the hydro sector remained strong through the most recent Congressional session.
Several bills were proposed to, and were passed by, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, including the Hydropower Modernization Act of 2017, which would have been significant as more than 500 projects are nearing their time for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing.
The bill would also, perhaps, support Trump's desire to increase the U.S. hydro fleet even further by encouraging private development at non-powered dam infrastructure.
"We could double hydropower production without building a single new dam, simply by updating and streamlining," said Rep. Cath McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who sponsored the bill.
Per recent U.S. Department of Energy studies, just 3% of the more than 80,000 dams in the U.S. are being used for hydroelectric generation. The outstanding 97% represents up to 12 GW of opportunity.
Hydro accounted for about 6.5% of all power consumed in the U.S. in 2016 and 44% of its total utility-scale renewable electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration.
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