Amid uncertainty about what recent election results will mean for environmental policy and the fate of the planet, a remarkable clarity pervaded the NW Energy Coalition Clean & Affordable Energy conference this past Thursday in Portland. David Roberts, Vox energy and climate columnist and the conference’s keynote speaker, opened the day by reminding an audience of more than two-hundred that, regardless of coming battles and possible changes in energy and environmental policy both in Washington DC and in the Northwest, there remains a simple imperative. If we are to avoid doing catastrophic damage to the planet and to ourselves, “we must clean up the grid and electrify everything.”
The causes for which the NW Energy Coalition advocated at the time of its founding in 1981 – energy efficiency, the adoption of new renewable energy resources, wildlife and fish protection and equity for low-income people – are now so widely embraced, it’s hard to imagine they were ever controversial. But, widespread acceptance of those values is triggering diverse and often conflicting visions for how they should be realized.
Coalition conference featuring Montana governor and NorthWestern Energy CEO draws big crowd in Missoula
Overflow crowds greeted Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, NorthWestern Energy CEO Bob Rowe, and a host of renewable energy and energy efficiency advocates and providers at the Spring 2016 NW Clean & Affordable Energy Conference in Missoula on May 19. More than 120 people from around the region attended this edition of the NW Energy Coalition’s twice-yearly conference, which rotates through Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana. Coalition members returned the next day to elect board members, select annual award winners and strategize.
Transportation is one of the most polluting, energy-inefficient sectors of our economy, and the Pacific Northwest is uniquely positioned to leverage its clean electricity resources to change that. State and local policy should foster a greater role for the region’s electric utilities in electrifying transportation, not only for passenger vehicles but also for buses, short-haul vans and trucks, and non-road industrial equipment such as forklifts and shore power.
Nearly 35 years after the Northwest Power Act mandated equal treatment for fish and power generation in the Columbia-Snake system, 13 of the basin’s wild salmon and steelhead stocks are still listed under the Endangered Species Act. Recovery will require, among other measures, changes in hydropower system operations that will reduce electricity generation, such as dam removal or greatly increased spill over the dams. What would replacing the power cost Northwest energy consumers and how does it compare to escalating costs of maintaining aging power system infrastructure?
Northwest Power and Conservation Council and other planners systematically underestimate efficiency savings from new products
Regional energy efficiency achievements have far exceeded power planners’ expectations for the past 15 years. Better-than-expected savings sound great for consumers and the environment … and they are. But underestimating future efficiency savings can lead to false conclusions about the need for new power plants, resulting in unnecessary expenses that raise consumers’ bills.
Coalition analysis: 7th Power Plan model minimizes looming coal plant costs, ignores out-of-region generators
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s 7th Plan will serve as a guide for choosing the best resources to meet electric needs over the next 20 years. A NW Energy Coalition issue paper, The True Cost of Coal: Fully accounting for coal-fired electricity use in the 7th Northwest Power and Conservation Plan, bares two shortcomings in the Council’s resource modeling that makes these polluting coal plants look cheaper than they are as a resource to meet the region’s needs.
Every five years, the Northwest’s official power planning agency – the Northwest Power and Conservation Council – conducts a fresh assessment of the region’s long-term electricity needs and issues a blueprint for meeting them. Click here for the latest information on the Council’s regional planning process.