The Coalition’s greatest hits … so far
… so far30 years of clean and affordable energy success%CODE1%%CODE1%%CODE1%
Influencing the 1st regional plan. The Coalition’s first Model Electric Power and Conservation Plan, released in 1982, showed that capturing cost-effective conservation could avoid construction of most new power plants. It set the terms for public advocacy around the Northwest Power Planning Council’s first regional plan which, when adopted one year later, offered strikingly similar recommendations.
Termination of four Washington Public Power Supply System planned nuclear power plants in the early 1980s. The WPPSS debacle resulted in a $2.25 billion bond default that Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) utilities and their consumers are still paying off. Stopping four of the five dangerous and unnecessary nukes has saved Northwest residents untold billions more. (WPPSS is now known as Energy Northwest.)
Northwest Power Planning Council adoption of the hydropower protected areas program in 1988. The Coalition supported the successful campaign, led by Michael Rossotto of Friends of the Earth, to set aside about 44,000 miles of Northwest streams as critical habitat for fish and wildlife.
Establishing the Lighting Design Lab in 1989. The Coalition, in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Seattle City Light, secured BPA and City Light funding for an internationally renowned facility that provides education and demonstrations of state-of-the-art energy efficient lighting. The lab has been a model for an untold number of similar lighting and energy efficiency centers.
Helping to launch the Save Our wild Salmon (SOS) coalition in 1991. SOS and NWEC remain close partners in the campaign to restore Columbia Basin wild salmon and steelhead species now on the federal Endangered Species List due primarily to the existence and operation of federal hydropower dams.
Convening the first-ever BPA shareholders meeting in 1994. As BPA responded to the electricity deregulation follies by trying to become more “business-like,” the Coalition organized a convention to dramatize the concerns of shareholders – clean energy and wild salmon advocates, low-income agencies and other members of the public who actually own the federal agency.
Creating the Renewable Northwest Project (RNP) in 1994. Begun as a Coalition project, RNP spun off into a separate organization three years later and has been a principal force in bringing more than 2,000 megawatts of wind and other new renewable power online in the Northwest.
Helping to establish the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC) in 1994 and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) in 1996. NEEC is the region’s preeminent trade association for energy efficiency businesses. NEEA works to maximize energy efficiency through market transformation and other regional collaborations. The two organizations have helped the region save enough energy since 1997 to power nearly 600,000 homes.
Establishing CO2 mitigation laws in Oregon (1997) and Washington (2004). Washington followed Oregon’s example with a statute that requires mitigation of 20% of new fossil-fueled power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions or payment of a per-metric-ton fee on those emissions. RNP led the campaign for the Oregon statute.
Convincing BPA to invest in low-income weatherization via community action agencies in 1997. At a time when BPA was slashing its overall energy efficiency budget, the Coalition convinced the agency to dedicate funds to weatherize low-income families’ homes through community action agencies. BPA invests $5 million per year in this way.
Establishing the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). Since its founding in 1998, BEF has funded more than $4.5 million in new renewable energy projects and watershed restoration projects in the region.
Publishing Utility Scorecards in 1998. Amid the Enron-induced deregulation scare, the Scorecards tested regional utilities’ commitment to energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-income weatherization. The Scorecards revealed that while a few utilities continued to invest in energy efficiency, most slashed those investments. The Coalition used those results in the campaign for robust BPA and utility efficiency budgets.
Passing Oregon and Montana energy efficiency investment requirements in 1997 and 1999. Oregon’s energy restructuring law created a public benefits fund that invests in energy efficiency, renewable energy development and low-income energy assistance in the state. The Energy Trust of Oregon administers the fund. Two years earlier the Coalition and its allies had wrung establishment of the region’s first such fund out of Montana’s electric restructuring folly.
Influencing the 5th Northwest Power and Conservation Plan. In 2002, the Coalition commissioned a study that became the basis for the Citizens Energy Plan and Energy Matters campaign in 2004. Using these tools, the Coalition pushed the newly renamed Northwest Power and Conservation Council to adopt a plan calling for meeting the next 20 years of load growth almost entirely with energy efficiency and new renewables.
Passing Washington and Oregon emissions performance standards in 2007 and 2008. The Coalition worked to pass a law that bars construction in the state of, or long-term power purchase by Washington utilities from a plant that emits more carbon dioxide than a gas-fired power plant. The standard essentially puts new coal-fired power off-limits, unless the plant captures and permanently stores much of its carbon emissions – something no commercial plant has done. Oregon followed suit one year later.
Stopping Sempra’s proposed Idaho coal plant in 2006 and Energy Northwest’s faux “clean coal” plant in 2009. The Coalition and its allies convinced Sempra Energy to pull its proposal for a 600-megawatt coal plant in Idaho’s Magic Valley just as the Idaho legislature passed a two-year moratorium on coal plants. In Washington the Coalition and its allies countered misinformation about a proposed “carbon-capture ready” coal plant in Kalama. Developer Energy Northwest (the former WPPSS) was forced to abandon the project.
Passing Washington’s Clean Energy Initiative (I-937) in 2006 and successfully defending it ever since. Passed by public vote after years of legislative intransigence, I-937 requires the state’s larger electric utilities to gradually increase the share of new renewables in their energy “portfolios” to 15% by 2020. It separately requires affected utilities to capture ALL the cost-effective energy efficiency in their service territories.
Convincing Washington’s governor to approve the Kittitas Valley wind project. The Coalition campaigned for Gov. Chris Gregoire to approve a fully vetted, 65-turbine wind farm near Ellensburg even though county officials objected. She did so in September 2007. The Washington State Supreme Court unanimously rejected the county’s appeal in 2009.
Influencing the 6th regional plan. Published in March 2009, Bright Future: How to keep the Northwest’s lights on, jobs growing, goods moving and salmon swimming in the era of climate change, showed the Northwest has more than enough clean energy to meet future needs, fuel a growing fleet of electric vehicles, and replace the power from polluting coal plants and the fish-killing lower Snake River dams at little or no additional cost to Northwest families. Eleven months later, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council issued its 6th regional plan, calling for meeting 85% of new needs over the next 20 years with energy efficiency and virtually all the rest with new renewables.
Agreements to transition Oregon’s Boardman plant and Washington’s TransAlta plant off of coal. In 2010, the Coalition and its allies helped negotiate an agreement with NWEC member utility Portland General Electric to transition its Boardman generating facility off of coal by the end of 2020. In 2011 the Coalition helped work out a deal that will end coal-burning at TransAlta Corp.’s Centralia, Wash., plant – half by 2020 and the rest by 2025. The agreement established funding for worker transitions and local economic development and energy efficiency.
Three decades – and counting – of successfully advocating clean energy and consumer interests before state and local utility regulatory boards and commissions. From rate cases, to integrated resources plans, to conservation programs, to low-income weatherization and bill-paying assistance, the Coalition continues to steer the Northwest toward its clean and affordable energy future. The region’s record 254 average megawatts of energy efficiency in 2010 is one of the most important fruits of these labors.