Cowlitz PUD Report Outlines Plan
by Erik Olson
Cowlitz PUD officials expect to have enough power to accommodate growth for at least the next 15 years, according to a new report released this month.
But when the federal Bonneville Power Administration in Oregon stops providing enough power in 2001(?) for power load growth for Northwest utilities, Cowlitz PUD will to expand its horizons to generate its own clean power, officials say.
"It's our position at this time that we are going to be responsible for our own load growth," said Gary Huhta, the PUD's director of power management.
The impact on rates, however, is unclear. PUD officials said they saw no rate increases on the horizon when they passed their operating budget in December, but the utility will have to move away from cheap BPA power in the coming decades. Cowlitz PUD buys 90 percent of its power from the BPA.
"That low-cost hydro that we've counted on for so long has spread as far as it's going to go," said Dave Andrew, a PUD spokesman.
PUD staff also recommends the utility pull out of Energy Northwest's $1.5 billion coal/ petcoke gasification plant proposed at the Port of Kalama. That project hit a snag last fall when a state panel ruled Energy Northwest failed to provide a plan to adequately offset the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. PUD commissioners cut funding for the project in their 2008 budget.
The biggest immediate priority for the utility is finding sources of alternative, clean power to meet the standard of the voter-approved Initiative 937. By 2020, renewable power must make up 15 percent of the utility's total load.
The PUD is already the lead partner among four utilities in the $360 million White Creek wind turbine project in Eastern Washington. The utility is also looking for partners to expand the project into its next phase, called Harvest Wind, though no costs estimates have yet been determined.
Even with both phases online, Cowlitz PUD won't be able to meet the I-937 renewable energy standard in 2020, PUD officials say.
Andrew and Huhta hopes this new electric integrated resource plan, required of all utilities by state law, will help make the planning for renewable resources a little easier. The utility's three-member commission is expected to approve the document before the end of the month, Andrew said.
The average ratepayer may not be too interested in this kind of long-range planning, Andrew said. But the utility must plan for the future to address the most fundamental needs of rate payers, he said.
"They want to make sure their lights come on. The reason you do these things is to make sure that kind of thing can happen," Andrew said.
From Cowlitz PUD August 2008 Newsletter
Cowlitz PUD has rights to 46 percent of the electricity produced at the White Creek Wind project. We are currently selling this electricity to other utilities. We expect to begin using the White Creek power in 2012, to meet future load growth and new renewable resource requirements.
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