In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources


    Hydroelectric power is an old and well-established technology that uses water flow through turbines to generate electricity. Current U.S. hydro-generating capacity is about 100,000 MW, mostly at large dams. Hydropower now provides about 7 percent of the nation's electricity and about 2.5 percent of its total energy.

    Hydropower creates no greenhouse gas emissions or toxic air pollution. Unlike wind, solar or nuclear power, it can be turned on or off as needed. Engineers can control the flow of water through the turbines to produce electricity on demand, helping to improve the stability and reliability of the electric grid. And the lake that forms behind a hydropower dam can be used for recreational purposes.

    On the other hand, hydropower dams obstruct the river for aquatic life, preventing fish from migrating upstream to spawning grounds and migrating downstream to the ocean. (Installation of fish ladders and other interventions help address this problem.) Without sufficient flow of water downstream from the dam, riparian habitat is threatened. And in times of drought, there may not be enough water to maintain electrical production. (A U.S. Energy Information Administration report on renewable energy consumption noted that 37 states experienced losses in hydropower generation in 2010 due to low water availability.)

    Potential. A study commissioned by the National Hydropower Association estimated that hydropower capacity could be increased by about 60,000 MW by taking a number of actions, including adding turbines at existing dams, using more efficient turbines, and increasing the use of pumped storage. An example of the latter would be pumping water behind a dam using excess wind power at night, when winds tend to be stronger and electric demand is less, and then using the water to generate power during the day when the demand is greater.


    Back to Introduction to Renewable Energy