Remarks of Nancy Hirsh Executive Director, NW Energy Coalition Lower Snake River Dam Rally December 1, 2016
All of us who live in the Northwest are being threatened. We’re being told that, if we remove the lower Snake River dams to restore wild salmon, we’ll have to build natural gas-fired power plants that will spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and drive up electric rates.
In short, we’re being told, we can save wild salmon or we can have clean, abundant, affordable electricity, but we can’t have both.
But, do you know what’s wrong with that story? It’s just that – a story — a tale that was made up without exploring whether the electricity the dams generate can be replaced with other clean, renewable energy. It was made up without knowing what a clean and renewable energy replacement solution would really cost. And it was made up without even knowing what it will cost to maintain and upgrade the old deteriorating dams.
That’s why we’re here today. We want the Bonneville Power Administration and the other federal agencies to conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent assessment of alternatives to maintaining the dams, including options that are based on energy efficiency and other clean, renewable energy, just as the court ordered.
Because, if BPA and the agencies do that, they will discover what we at the NW Energy Coalition discovered when we did our analysis. Our study, which looked at the current developments in new renewable energy resources, and which incorporated extensive analysis by a former engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, determined that the power generated by the lower Snake River dams can be replaced by a portfolio of solar energy, improved efficiency, market purchases of electricity, and improved grid management.
The result would be enough electricity for everyone, no increase in carbon emissions, no loss of reliability, and it can be done at a cost of about $1 a month to customers. You may be skeptical that replacement of the power from 4 large hydro-projects is really possible in an affordable and carbon-free manner, but some basic facts will help. These 4 projects provide only 4% of the power for the entire Northwest. And the region already generates over two times the dam’s annual output with other renewable energy like wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy. We’re also changing in the way we use electricity. We’re becoming smarter about how we generate, consume, and manage electricity. Energy efficiency has allowed us to save enough energy to power the city of Seattle five times over. We are improving how we bundle wind and solar together from different geographic areas to increase reliability. And we are beginning to use energy markets to more efficiently utilize all of our resources. Today and tomorrow, we have many more options for meeting our needs for power than simply running the turbines or taking the easy yet carbon intensive path of natural gas. If you would like more detail, you can pick up the NW Energy Coalition Fact Sheet at the tables.
What all that means is that we don’t have to give in to the false choice between saving wild salmon and enjoying clean, abundant, affordable electricity.
In closing, I just want to say to all of you and also to the people at BPA and everyone who cares about this issue that we are not breaking new ground here. A utility in California determined, after a thorough study, that it could replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant with a portfolio of clean energy and new renewables. Utilities in Oregon and Washington are working hard to analyze all the options at their disposal to replace coal-fired power plants – all those options that go beyond natural gas, include energy efficiency, energy storage, managing customer demands and new renewable energy. We stand ready to work with BPA and the other federal agencies to identify all the options to build a next generation integrated and modern electricity grid that meets customers needs, protects the environment and contributes our share to climate action. Our greatest asset is our ingenuity and ability to adapt. If we apply these skills to the challenge of providing carbon-free clean energy, and restoring healthy salmon populations, we will secure a clean, reliable, and affordable energy future.
Nancy Hirsh, Executive Director