Hydropower operators make use of the ability to store water and regulate river flow to ensure that this clean energy source is available when the public needs electricity. By releasing or retaining water at certain times of the year, hydropower operators can ensure water is available to meet peak energy demand when it is needed most. Some dams even have the ability to help regulate water by the hour or minute to help meet sharp but temporary spikes in electric demand. This ability to meet temporary peak loads in electric demand can prevent the need for utilities to keep fossil fuel generation on stand-by to serve this highly variable electric load. In this way, use of hydropower generation helps avoid the release of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel generation.
Currently, state and national level discussions are ongoing about how to manage and mitigate for greenhouse gas emissions from many sectors of the economy – including the utility sector. As legislative proposals are developed, the Northwest Hydroelectric Association urges policy makers to recognize the important role that hydropower plays as a clean, non-emitting energy source.