Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is Hydropower a Renewable Energy Resource?

Venezuela's Drought, the Worst in 50 Years

Republican politicians have for some time argued that hydroelectric power should be classified as a renewable resource. Their motivation is clear. If hydropower is renewable, then states like Washington, which require that public utilities generate a given percentage of their electricity (15% for Washington) from renewable energy resources by a certain date (2020 in the case of Washington), would effectively have to do nothing. About 87 percent of the electricity made in Washington state is produced by hydroelectric facilities. The State even sells some of its hydroelectric power to other states. But is hydropower renewable?

The situation in Venezuela today is instructive. Up to now, hydropower has been the major energy source in Venezuela — providing residents and industry with up to two-thirds of the total electricity produced. But a record lack of rainfall has resulted in low water flows and several power interruptions.

Venezuela imposed electricity and water rationing in December to prevent a collapse of the electricity grid as water levels behind the Guri Dam fell to critical lows. The dam supplies most of Venezuela's electricity.
Rolling blackouts lasting up to four hours are bring imposed throughout the country except the capital of Caracas as the country struggles with the severe drought.

Hugo Chavez is moving to build wind farms and is vowing to develop nuclear energy, whether the U.S. likes it or not. If Chavez’s nuclear bluster is just a lot of hot air, then at least he’ll have the wind turbines to harness it.
In the meantime, Republicans might want to rethink their energy platform.

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