Lower load growth expectations for 7th Plan don't reduce importance of energy efficiency

Northwest Power and Conservation Council staff expect significantly slower growth in energy demand over the next 20 years than was predicted in the sixth regional power plan five years ago. This preliminary projection marks a critical step in the Council’s development of the 7th Northwest Power and Conservation Plan.

The Council develops a low, medium and high load forecast as a basis for the regional plan’s resource option analysis. This preliminary forecast for the 7th Plan incorporates the growth of rooftop solar resources, savings from past energy efficiency programs, and expected savings from codes and standards already in place. It does not consider potential savings from future energy efficiency programs, which the Council instead will model as a generation option to be selected (or not) based on price/risk factors.

Taking all that into consideration, staff project moderate overall load growth of a half to 1% per year, resulting in the need for 2,000-5,000 average megawatts of new power and/or energy savings by the end of the 20-year period in 2035. That compares to 6th Plan projections of a 1.4% annual increase in demand and 7,000 aMW total increase over the life of that plan (2010-2030).

Slower regional population growth and slightly lower industrial economic growth expectations account for some of the reduction, but so do energy efficiency codes and standards improvements over the last five years that have decreased projected growth by some 1,500 aMW over the 7th Plan period.

The Council foresees a 0.4% to 0.9% growth in highest (“peak”) demands during winter months – traditionally the season of greatest Northwest power use. But summer peak is also growing, thanks to increased air conditioning use in summer. Summer and winter peaks should be nearly equal by 2035, according to the Council analysis.

Reduced load forecasts are no excuse for reducing regional investment in energy efficiency. The 6th Plan called for meeting 85% of new needs with bill-reducing energy savings and almost all the rest with new renewables, and the region has been heeding that call.

Lower growth projections for the 7th Plan period mean we can meet an even higher percentage of new load with energy efficiency – saving more money for families and businesses, reducing our reliance on climate-polluting fossil fuels and cleanly powering our growing fleet of electric vehicles.

Realizing those savings, and their benefits, will be a primary 7th Plan goal for clean and affordable energy advocates throughout the Northwest.

Click here to read the Council analysis.