Thursday, March 4, 2010

Energy Efficiency Can Replace the Four Lower Snake River Dams

Every five years, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council produces a plan for meeting the next 20 years of electricity needs – a plan that guides the decisions of Bonneville Power Administration and the public utilities that the BPA serves, and sets benchmarks for all of the region's utilities.

Last month, the Council approved it's 6th plan, which says the region can and should meet the majority (85%) of new power needs with energy efficiency costing far less than power from any new generating facility. Almost all the rest will be met with the new renewable energy already required by Northwest states.

From Sara Patton, NW Energy Coalition's Executive Director, in her op-ed to the Oregonian:
Meanwhile, commercial and sports fishermen and other salmon advocates believe successful salmon recovery will require some changes to the hydropower system, possibly including removal of the lower Snake River dams in eastern Washington. If the dams go, the system will have to replace about enough electricity to meet the needs of Seattle as well as some system backup services.

To help inform the region on the coal and salmon issues, the Council studied shutting off enough coal power (40 percent, or about 1,500 average megawatts) by 2020 to meet state requirements while also removing the four Lower Snake River dams. It found that even after meeting growing electric demand, after slashing coal use and after taking measures that may prove necessary for salmon survival, customers' bills still will go down.

How is that possible? It's all the energy efficiency: more efficient TVs, motors, lights, air conditioners, buildings and manufacturing. Saving energy is cheaper than any kind of generation. Council analysis shows that realizing the plan's energy efficiency goals — targets consistent with the recent trend in utility achievement — will reduce average residential electricity about a tenth of a percent a year, even if we replace some of the power from dirty coal plants and the four Snake River dams.

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