Council Responds to Congressman Doc Hastingsby Bruce Measure
Response Letter, April 20, 2010
The Honorable Doc Hastings
Ranking Republican Member
Committee on Natural Resources
U.S. House of Representatives
Dear Congressman Hastings:
Thank you for your recent letter concerning the analysis included in the Council's Sixth Power Plan that pertains to the four lower Snake River dams. The Council's power plan is required by the Northwest Power Act to ensure the region an "adequate, efficient, economic and reliable power supply."
The central element of the Sixth Power Plan is energy efficiency. The plan identifies over 5,900 average megawatts of cost-effective energy efficiency measures that the Council expects to meet as much as 85 percent of the Northwest's electrical load growth over the next twenty years. The Council's plan assumes that the lower Snake River dams will continue to generate electricity over that same twenty year period.
The Council's Sixth Power Plan describes the least-cost, least-risk set of resources for the Pacific Northwest during the next 20 years. In the plan, the Council used a computer model to analyze different future scenarios for the Northwest electricity system. In all, the Council modeled 10 scenarios, including one that anlayzed the impact of removing the four lower Snake River dams.
In each scenario, the model picked the best mix of energy-efficiency and generating resources to meet future demand for power while also ensuring the lowest cost to consumers and the lowest risk of supply problems that could spike power prices. The power plan compares these scenarios against each other. It is important to understand that the plan does not compare the scenarios to the present day configuration and operation of the Northwest energy systme.
Nine of the 10 cases that were studied assume continued operation of the dams. In the dam-removal scenario, the energy and capacity of the lower Snake River dams are removed beginning in 2020, half way through the 20-year duration of the plan. The results of the analysis were derived by comparing a scenario with the dams against the dam-removal scenario. Both scenarios otherwise are identical and include the same uncertain future costs for carbon emissions.
The following are the answers to your specific questions, based on the comparison of modeling scenarios described above.
Yes. The analysis shows that the loss of power generation from the four lower Snake River dams would increase Northwest carbon dioxide emissions by three million tons per year by 2030 (from 40 million to 43 million tons per year, an 8 percent increase in emissions from Northwest generating facilities), compared to the least-cost, least-risk scenario in which the dams remain in place.
As shown below in the answer to question 3, the loss of hydropower generation on the Snake River would result in increased electricity imports into the region, and decreased exports from the region. This reduction of net exports from the Northwest means that part of the energy lost from the Snake River dams would be made up by increase generation outside the Northwest. In the Council's analysis this would cause an additioinal three million tons of carbon dioxide to be emitted every year in the rest of the WECC region.
The lower Snake River dams produce on average 1,103 average megawatts (MWa) of energy each year. The Sixth Power Plan analysis of what resources might replace this average energy loss as a result of removing the lower Snake River dams is shown in the table below.
|Replacement Resources (for 1,103 MWa)||Average Change
in Energy (MWa)
|Existing Natural Gas||+ 91|
|Existing Coal||+ 149|
|New Natural Gas||+ 197|
|Renewables and Other||- 10|
|Net Imports (reduced exports and increase imports)||+ 531|
|Total Energy Replace on Average||1,103|
In addition to their average annual energy production, the lower Snake River dams provide capacity to meet peak loads, supply reserves for balancing electricity use, provide generation for hourly load-following and create reactive support for the stability of the transmission grid. The aggregate maximum power house capacity of the four dams is nearly 3,500 megawatts. The sustained-peaking capability of these projects (the ability to maintain a certain output during a cold snap or heat wave) is estimated to be about 2,100 megawatts.
Yes. The Council has estimate that removing the lower Snake River dams would increase BPA's power rate to its preference-customers utilites by between $6.60 and $8.15 per megawatt-hour, or between 24 and 29 percent. That likely would translate into rate increase for customers of these utilities of roughly 12 to 15 percent.
The Council is not aware of any studies that show the removal of the Snake River dams, on its own, would result in the recovery of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks that migrate in the Snake River.
Also, the Council is not aware of any studies that have investigated the biological effects of Snake River dam removal on the nine ESA-listed stocks in the Columbia River that do not migrate in the Snake River. Therefore, the Council is unable to answer that portion of your question.
In the 2009 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program the Council state that "[f]or the purpose of planning for this Fish and Wildlife Program, and particularly the hydropower system portion of the Program, the Council assumes that, in he near term, the breaching of any dams in the mainstem will not occur. The Council revises its Fish and Wildlife Program every five years at a minimum. If within that five-year period the status of the lower Snake River dams or any other major component of the Columbia River hydropower system has changed, the Council can take that into account as part of the review process."
We included analysis of the effects of dam removal in the Council's power plan because the Council views its role as providing objective analysis of important issues affecting the regional power system, to help inform public debate and policy.
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