Regulatory Analysis: Navigating the Policies That Drive Development

NREL's regulatory knowledge and public utility commission support helps break down the barriers normally experienced when navigating hydropower development and impact.

Aerial photo of water flowing through a hydropower plant.

Hydropower Regulatory Analysis and Stakeholder Support

Hydropower projects must navigate a series of federal, state, tribal, and local approvals to receive authorization for construction. The Hydropower Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop (RAPID) Toolkit offers a solution to the complex system of federal and state regulations that must be addressed to secure hydropower project approval. The RAPID Toolkit provides easy access to federal and state permitting information, best practices, and reference material for conventional hydro, micro hydro, and pumped storage development projects.

In related work, NREL helps stakeholders understand the time, cost, benefits, and associated risk and uncertainty of hydropower licensing and associated regulatory approvals (e.g., Clean Water Act Sec. 401 Water Quality Certification, Endangered Species Act, and National Historic Preservation Act of 1966), as well as the causal factors behind those costs/timelines and the impact of the licensing process on the hydropower market, economics, and deployment.

In October 2021, NREL published An Examination of the Hydropower Licensing and Federal Authorization Process, which categorized the factors that can impact the time, cost, and risk of launching new or refurbishing old hydropower projects. The findings will help decision makers identify areas for reform and reduce uncertainty for future hydropower development.


New Report Can Help Reduce Time and Cost To Advance Hydropower NREL Fact Sheet (2021)

An Examination of the Hydropower Licensing and Federal Authorization Process NREL Technical Report (2021)

RAPID: Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit, U.S. Department of Energy Fact Sheet (2020)

Basin-Wide Approaches to Hydropower Relicensing: Case Studies and Considerations, NREL Technical Report (2019)

FERC Hydropower Licensing: A Review of Utilization of the ILP, TLP, and ALP, NREL Technical Report (2019)

Negotiating Terms and Conditions: An Overview of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Hydropower Settlement Agreement Process, NREL Technical Report (2018)

Regulatory Approaches for Adding Capacity to Existing Hydropower Facilities, NREL Technical Report (2017)

State Models To Incentivize and Streamline Small Hydropower Development, NREL Technical Report (2017)


Aaron Levine

Senior Legal and Regulatory Analyst

Public Utility Commissions Support

As states and other organizations strive to meet their renewable energy goals, the need for high capacity, longer duration storage such as pumped storage hydropower is becoming more prevalent.

NREL works to match the technological need of government jurisdictions with what the market is doing externally. We take questions from governments—state, local, and tribal—and then we inform their decisions about technology adoptions.

The focus is to help jurisdictions better manage their technologies. Since 2012, NREL has done at least 2,000 interventions where we worked with jurisdictions to support decisions related to technology adoption.


David Greene

Researcher IV, Market Research Analysis