The Lower Snake River Dams Power Replacement Study

Reliable and affordable clean energy options that help restore salmon and protect the environment

Why the study was undertaken

Wild salmon and orca whales are threatened with extinction owing partly to the presence of four hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River in Washington.  The dams create an impediment to fish migration and worsen the warming of river water, which also inhibits migration. As a result, salmon populations have declined by more than 90%.  One solution that would give salmon a fighting chance, is the removal of the dams.

This 2018 study was undertaken to investigate the technical feasibility and cost of replacing the power and energy services provided by the four Lower Snake River Dams with a portfolio of clean and renewable resources that support a reliable and adequate regional power system while minimizing increases to greenhouse gas emissions.

The findings

  • Balanced portfolios of clean energy resources, including solar, wind, energy efficiency, demand-response, and storage can replace the power the four LSR Dams contribute to the Northwest region.
  • Clean portfolios were equal or superior to an All Gas alternative for adequacy, emissions, cost, and reliability.
  • The costs of balanced clean replacement portfolios are small compared to the cost of the regional power system.
  • A balanced clean replacement portfolio has only a minor impact on GHG emissions (about 1%). If implemented in conjunction with a regional GHG reduction policy, substantial reductions in GHG emissions can be achieved.
  • New gas-fired generation is not required to address regional capacity needs.
  • The study did not try to identify an optimal clean energy replacement portfolio. An effort to do so should produce even more cost effective and environmentally efficient outcomes than the portfolios considered in this analysis.


Study Summaries (click to open/download pdf files)

Energy Strategies Materials (click to open/download pdf files)

DEIS Comments (April 13, 2020)

See the NW Energy Coalition comments in response to the Columbia River System Operations Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

Previous Study examining dam replacement costs and avoided expenditures (click to open/download pdf file)

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