7th Power and Conservation Plan vehicle to clean energy future

It’s time to gear up for the 7th Plan!

Every five years, the region’s official power planning agency prepares an updated 20-year forecast of the Northwest’s electric power needs and a plan for how those needs should be met.

This is no idle exercise. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council – composed of two governor-appointed representatives each from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington  –  must prioritize energy efficiency and renewable energy as new resources, and give fish and wildlife equal access to the Columbia River basin.

The Council plan guides the choices of the Bonneville Power Administration and carries considerable weight with utility governing boards, regulators and other decision-makers and thus goes a long way toward determining the lowest cost and least risky power strategy for the future.

The Coalition’s diverse membership plays an active role in shaping these plans. We’ve produced our own model plans or other guidance documents every time the Council has begun work on a new plan. With our members and allies we have advocated successfully for plans that set a higher and cleaner energy bar for Northwest families and businesses.

This 7th Plan will help us raise the bar higher, capitalize on our region’s clean energy success and set us on the course to a cleaner, more affordable and wildlife-friendly future. We need all hands on deck … starting now!

Issues of the 7th Plan

Like its six predecessors, the 7th Northwest Power and Conservation Plan must forecast regional loads (electricity  demand), potential energy efficiency at various costs, and the availability and costs of new renewables and other power generating resources. The analytic processes developed during previous plans provide a solid basis for the Council’s highly skilled staff.

However, staff and Council members must grapple new questions, including projecting the potentials of fast-changing technologies and market development efforts surrounding both energy efficiency and generating resources.

One of the most pertinent issues is how to incorporate pending environmental regulations into the 7th Plan. Chief among those is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan – known as 111[b] and 111[d] – which seeks to reduce the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Assessing the costs and benefits of all generating resources is central to determining future power and energy efficiency choices. And predicted costs associated with new regulations will inform how much coal and natural gas-fired power we’ll use in the next 20 years.

The Council also faces the challenge of modeling how increased vehicle electrification, burgeoning distributed generation such as home-sited solar power, and additional investments in demand-response efforts and other emerging efficiency tools will affect power capacity needs and utilities’ fiscal viability.

With our members and allies, the Coalition will push for full valuation of the benefits as well as the costs of clean and conventional energy options. We’re confident that a full reading of the facts will result in a strong power plan that benefits the Northwest’s people and environment.

How to help

The Council’s 7th Plan process, as seen in the accompanying timeline graphic, offers multiple opportunities for you or your organization to provide input. Council staff are preparing a series of issues papers with public-input periods.

Once the Council releases its draft 7th Plan, people in all four Northwest states will have opportunities to attend public hearings. These sessions will be critical in convincing Council members and their political leaders that making clean energy choices is vital to our environment, our children’s future and our economic well-being.

Finally, once we’ve secured a 7th Power Plan that even outdoes the groundbreaking 6th Plan in charting a clean energy course, we’ll have to make sure utilities, regulators and other Northwest decision-makers follow through.

With you, we’ve been doing this for 34 years. Public involvement is central to a successful plan. We’ll keep you apprised of what’s up next.