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New Power Plan says 85 Percent of Electricity
Demand Next 20 Years Can Be Met with Efficiency

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, Feburary 12, 2010

A new regional power plan adopted this week by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council says 85 percent of the new demand for electricity over the next 20 years in the Northwest can be met by using energy more efficiently.

The plan's target for the first five years, 1,200 average megawatts, is the energy equivalent of the power use of a city the size of Seattle. Over time, the energy-efficiency target in the plan -- 5,900 average megawatts over 20 years -- would be the most aggressive regional target in the nation.

Investments in energy-efficient equipment and products will cost less than half as much as buying electricity from new power plants, saving consumers millions of dollars, says the Council's power plan which can be found at

Additionally, investments in energy efficiency will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the region's power supply by 17 million tons per year by 2030 and create as many as 47,000 new jobs in the Northwest, according to calculations by the Council staff.

"With its emphasis on energy efficiency, the plan enhances the benefits we already enjoy in the Northwest from our extensive hydropower system, which is low-cost and carbon-free," said Council Chair Bruce Measure of Montana.

Energy efficiency and carbon-emissions control are at the heart of the Sixth Northwest Power Plan, a regional energy blueprint developed by the Council that guides the region's largest electricity supplier, the federal Bonneville Power Administration. Under federal law, the Council revises the 20-year plan every five years. The Council approved the latest, sixth, revision of the plan following more than two years of work that included extensive public participation and comment. While Bonneville implements the plan, the plan also serves as a reference document for the region's electric utilities in their own planning.

The plan recommends that in addition to energy efficiency, future demand for power be met with renewable energy -- mainly wind -- plus new natural gas-fired turbines in areas where demand grows rapidly and utilities need new generating plants in addition to renewable power and efficiency improvements. Natural gas is preferred because it produces fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than coal. The plan anticipates no new coal-fired power plants over the 20-year planning horizon.

The plan assesses the risks and costs associated with carbon emissions from the regional power supply.

It says three things must happen in order to meet existing regional and state carbon-reduction targets for the year 2030: 1) acquire 5,900 average megawatts of energy efficiency, which is key to reducing carbon emissions; 2) meet renewable-energy portfolio standards adopted in three of the four Northwest states, which will displace power plants that burn fossil fuels; and 3) reduce the future use of existing coal-fired power plants by half compared to present-day use.

In addition, hydropower generation must be preserved as much as possible within the limits of legal requirements to protect fish and wildlife.

Energy efficiency in the plan is responsible for reducing carbon emissions from regional generating plants by a total of 17 million tons per year by 2030. Failure to achieve the efficiency improvements in the plan will increase both the cost and risk of the power system.

The plan says investment in energy efficiency creates jobs, both through direct installation of efficiency measures and indirectly over time through lower energy bills. The Council's staff estimates that, on average, the annual investment in energy efficiency envisioned in the power plan will create about 3,500 new jobs per year in the energy and energy-services industries. With sustained investment in conservation over the next 20 years, the region can expect an additional net increase of 43,500 jobs throughout the economy due to the ongoing increased savings in energy bills.

The Northwest population, says the plan, will increase from about 13 million today to 16.7 million by 2030, and load (the ongoing power requirement) will increase from about 21,000 average megawatts today to about 28,000 average megawatts by 2030, an increase of about 7,000 average megawatts overall or about 1.4 percent (about 339 average megawatts) per year.

The Northwest electricity system faces huge challenges: uncertainty about future climate-change policy, fuel prices, salmon-recovery actions, economic growth, and integration of variable wind power. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective and least risky resource to meet future demand.

The resource strategy in the plan includes five specific recommendations:

In 2008, the region's electric utilities set an all-time record for acquiring energy efficiency -- 235 average megawatts in one year (as generation, enough to power more than 14,200 Northwest homes for a year). Since 1980, more than half of the growth in demand for electricity in the Northwest has been met with energy efficiency.

As a result of the conservation savings, says the Council, the region didn't have to build 8-10 new coal- or gas-fired generating plants. This means the region emitted 15 million tons less carbon-dioxide in 2008 alone.

The average cost of these savings to utilities has been less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is less than the roughly 3 cents per kilowatt-hour BPA currently charges its electric-utility customers. Energy efficiency costs about 20 percent as much as wind power, which currently costs 8 to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Because consumers didn't have to buy 4,000 average megawatts of electricity in 2008, they paid $1.8 billion less for electricity -- even after accounting for the cost of energy-efficiency programs in their electric rates, says the Council.

Major sources have been home weatherization (insulation, windows), improved efficiency in commercial lighting, improved irrigation efficiency (fewer leaks, more efficient pumps, lower water pressure), industrial motors, and lighting (installation of compact fluorescent lights, particularly).

The Council says in the future large savings are expected to come from more efficient televisions, high-performance windows, more efficient clothes washers, water heaters, and industrial energy use. There also is a significant potential available, says the Council, from improving the efficiency of utility distribution systems with better voltage management, higher-efficiency transformers, and other utility-level improvements

New Power Plan says 85 Percent of Electricity Demand Next 20 Years Can Be Met with Efficiency
Columbia Basin Bulletin, Feburary 12, 2010

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