Press Release: Draft power plan relies on energy efficiency

TO ALL MEDIA: For immediate release, October 14, 2015
Contact: Marc Krasnowsky, ma**@nw******.org, (206) 621-0094; cell (425) 281-0668

Lots of energy efficiency, no new gas plants
in proposed new Northwest power plan

Public hearings in all four Northwest states begin Nov. 9

PORTLAND, Ore. — The new proposed power plan for Northwest states calls for meeting growing electric needs by using the power we have more efficiently and sees no immediate regional need for any new gas-fired plants.

On Wednesday, the region’s official power planning agency, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, approved the draft of its seventh regional plan. The Council produces a new 20-year plan every five years to guide Bonneville Power Administration’s resource decisions. The plans also establish a measuring stick for both public and investor-owned utilities’ long-term planning processes.

Energy efficiency, our cheapest and cleanest power source, is the cornerstone of the draft 7th Northwest Power and Conservation Plan. Investing in energy-saving appliances, electronics, lighting, buildings, and other technologies and systems, along with developing the new renewables required by Northwest states should satisfy new power demands and reduce customer bills.

Public-interest advocates support the Council goal of acquiring 4,500 average megawatts (just under a fourth of today’s current consumption) of energy efficiency over the next 20 years. The draft plan stresses that the economic benefits of energy efficiency programs must be distributed equitably and lists specific improvements BPA and the region’s utilities can make so their programs better serve low-income households that most need the bill relief energy efficiency savings provide.

The plan couples energy efficiency with aggressive development of demand response – incentives and other programs that lead consumers to change their energy-use timing – as a primary means of smoothing demand peaks and making the whole system more efficient and cost effective. The draft plan should have provided a demand response target for the region to shoot for; Council analysis shows that 700 megawatts to 1,100 MW over the 20-year time frame is a realistic collective goal for utilities across the region.

The Council analysis also highlights that the region has no immediate need for new natural gas-fired power plants. This is good news for consumers and for climate.

According to the draft plan, the region’s historical and ongoing investments in energy efficiency and renewables have put the four Northwest states on-track to cut carbon emissions 35% by 2035. Energy efficiency is now the region’s second-largest resource and the region boasts nearly 9,000 megawatts of non-hydro renewables that are producing good local jobs, community income and little or no pollution. Even better news is that the draft plan finds that the region could easily, and at moderate costs, reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2035.

The plan could have focused on emerging technologies, such as smart grid, storage, zero-energy buildings, etc., that bring more renewable energy to bear on reducing carbon emissions and meeting power needs.

Another obvious omission in the draft 7th Power and Conservation Plan is a thorough discussion of the power system costs and benefits related to recovering Columbia Basin wild salmon stocks. As the Bonneville Power Administration’s maintenance costs for infrastructure increase and pressure from climate change further stresses these imperiled stocks, the Council needs to take an honest look at the costs and benefits of maintaining the status quo.

Northwest residents may weigh in on the pros and cons of the draft 7th Plan through written comments and by attending and testifying at public hearings the Council will host in each state. The Council will consider the public input before issuing the final 7th Plan, likely in February 2016.

The link for written comments, along with the entire draft plan, will soon be available on the Council’s website, www.nwcouncil.org. Here’s a link to the draft plan executive summary: https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7149627/chapter01_summary.pdf

Hearings will be held:

  • Nov. 9, Kalispell, Mont., 6:30-8 p.m., Flathead Electric Community room, 2510 U.S. Hwy. 2 East
  • Nov. 11, Missoula, Mont., 6:30-8 p.m., DoubleTree Hotel, Blackfoot Room, 100 Madison St.
  • Nov. 12, Spokane, Wash., 5-6:30 p.m., Red Lion River Inn, Clearwater Board Room, 700 N. Division St.
  • Nov. 13, Pasco, Wash., 5-6:30 p.m., Best Western Hotel, 2811 N. 20th Ave.
  • Nov. 19, Seattle, 5-7 p.m., Hilton Airport Conference Center, 17620 International Blvd.
  • Nov. 19, Boise, Idaho, 4:30-7 p.m., Red Lion Downtowner, 1800 Fairview Ave.
  • Dec. 15, Portland, 6:30-8 p.m., EcoTrust Bldg., 721 NW 9th Ave.
  • Dec. 16, Eugene, Ore., 6:30-8 p.m., Eugene Water & Electric Board headquarters hearing room, north building, 500 E. Fourth Ave.

For more information, read the Council blog at https://www.nwcouncil.org/news/blog/comment-on-draft-7th-power-plan/ or contact NW Energy Coalition policy director Wendy Gerlitz at we***@nw******.org.