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Support clean, affordable energy in region’s new power plan
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the region’s official power planning agency, has just released the draft of its seventh regional power plan. The public now has until Dec. 18, 2015 to provide written reactions and opportunities to attend and testify at public hearings in all four Northwest states.
To prepare for the public hearings, the Coalition hosted a 7th Plan webinar on Thursday, Nov. 5. Coalition policy director Wendy Gerlitz gave an overview of the draft plan, followed by discussion of advocacy opportunities and messages. You can view a recording of this webinar here. (Graphics courtesy of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.)
Council power plans are important. They help determine how much clean energy we use by providing a blueprint for power system decisions throughout the region. They guide the Bonneville Power Administration’s choice of resources to meet public utilities’ needs and establish benchmarks for the long-term plans of both public and investor-owned utilities.
Our Coalition formed to monitor the Council’s first plan more than 30 years ago. We continue that work, advocating for plans that prioritize money-saving energy efficiency and affordable new renewables and that address consumer and environmental/wildlife needs.
That advocacy has paid off. The 5th and 6th plans focused almost entirely on energy efficiency and new renewables to meet new power needs, and thus helped build the Northwest’s clean energy economy.
The 7th Plan can maintain the momentum, but only if public-interest forces rally to support the draft plan’s forward-looking policies and call attention to its drawbacks.
Elements of the draft plan we support:
- Increased use of energy efficiency, our cheapest, surest and most climate-friendly new resource.The draft 7th Plan’s call for 4,500 average megawatts of new energy savings over the next 20 years; this is a good minimum goal.
- Avoiding construction of new natural gas-fired power plants.The draft plan finds almost no possibility that the region will need any new natural gas plants in the 10 years. More efficient power markets and transmission improvements can make that finding true for individual utilities.
- Greater reductions in carbon emissions.The draft plan sees shutting coal plants and using technologies already in place as the best way to reduce the power system’s climate-harming carbon emissions. The Council says emissions could be cut up to 80% at moderate cost … not counting the benefits!
- Assuring low-income families their share of energy efficiency savings.The draft plan rightly emphasizes serving low-income consumers and other “hard-to-reach” segments, all of whom pay for efficiency programs in their bills.
Elements that could be improved:
- Using demand responseto help meet peak power needs. Changing when people use power enhances reliability and avoids gas-fired generation. A 700-megawatt target for demand response was dropped from the draft. The final 7th Plan should specify a 700- to 1,100-megawatt target.
- Giving renewables their due. The draft is shortsighted in calling only for those renewables already required by Northwest states. Several renewable resources are as cheap as new natural gas plants, and the Council should study how emerging technologies and other developments such as improved markets can impact how clean renewables contribute to peak power demands.
- Fully assess salmon recovery costs.The Council should take an honest look at the costs and benefits of maintaining or retiring the four lower Snake River dams to aid passage and survival of endangered wild salmon.
The Coalition, in conjunction with its members and allies, is working to bring these messages to Council members at all eight 7th Plan hearings. You can help by agreeing to testify yourself, by encouraging others to attend, talking to your media contacts, and by passing along 7th Plan alerts and talking points to your mailing lists and through social media.
Please contact NW Energy Coalition outreach associate Kat Plimpton at ka*@nw******.org for more information on how to help make the 7th Northwest Power and Conservation Plan a clean energy model for the nation.