May 16, 2011 {authors} {/authors}

Power for the Pacific Northwest

A plan offers guidance for the region's utilities

{authors} By Power for the Pacific Northwest {/authors}

The Pacific Northwest power system faces significant uncertainties about the direction and form of climate change policy, future fuel prices, salmon recovery actions, economic growth and integrating rapidly growing amounts of variable wind generation.

And yet the focus of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s power plan is clear, especially with regard to the important near-term actions. The Council’s power plan addresses the risks these uncertainties pose for the region’s electricity future and seeks an electrical resource strategy that minimizes the expected cost of, and risks to, the regional power system over the next 20 years.

Across multiple scenarios considered in the development of the plan, one conclusion was constant: the most cost-effective and least risky resource for the region is improved efficiency of electricity use. In each of its power plans, the Council has found substantial amounts of conservation to be cheaper and more sustainable than most other types of generation. In this Sixth Power Plan, because of the higher costs of alternative generation sources, rapidly developing technology, and heightened concerns about global climate change, conservation holds an even larger potential for the region.

The plan finds enough conservation to be available and cost-effective to meet 85 percent of the region’s load growth for the next 20 years. If developed aggressively, this conservation,combined with the region’s past successful development of energy efficiency could constitute a resource comparable in size to the Northwest federal hydroelectric system. This efficiency resource will complement and protect the Northwest’s heritage of clean and affordable power.

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