Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wind, Salmon and FERC

Portland, Ore. – Today, salmon advocates joined the wind energy industry in a public battle against the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Their support comes following an official complaint by wind energy groups having lost millions in revenue this summer due to a recent policy implemented by BPA limiting their ability to sell power. BPA has attempted to pit the wind industry and salmon groups against each other, claiming the protection of endangered salmon as its motivation for curtailing the wind industry. Salmon advocates dispute the scientific support for such a claim. In fact, salmon groups assert that increasing spill over the dams a bit and supporting the renewable wind sector are in fact a “wind-win” for salmon, despite BPA’s claims.

The situation is a result of unusually high water levels in the rivers due to abundant snowfall this past winter. Consequently, surplus energy was created via hydro power, resulting in overgeneration on the power grid. Rather than implement numerous other options for handling the overgeneration, BPA’s decision was to shut off wind, contrary to existing contracts wind producers had with BPA. The wind industry has responded via an official complaint with the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC). Salmon advocates have filed a motion to intervene in the filing to support the wind-industry and protect endangered salmon, which benefit from safe spill at the dams.

"There is just no justification for BPA to curtail the whole region's wind power, costing wind investors many millions of dollars, just so they can maximize unneeded power generation at the dams," noted Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, a commercial fishing industry trade association and one of the intervening groups.  

“There’s more at stake here than just supporting the renewable energy sector and wind-industry, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Northwest,” said Kevin Lewis, Conservation Policy Director at Idaho Rivers United. “This short-sighted policy also hurts fish, and therefore, all the thousands of jobs and families that depend on those fish for their livelihoods.”

The organizations moving to intervene in the FERC proceeding include Save our Wild Salmon, Idaho Rivers United, American Rivers, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources

While BPA announced this morning that it was ending this season’s curtailment of wind energy, the long term implications are serious and broad reaching, both for investment in the renewable energy sector and for salmon. With scientifically driven change in federal policy, we know we can restore salmon, increase clean energy such as wind energy, and create jobs.  Read more in the NW Energy Coalition report “Bright Future.”

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