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EWEB Sets Energy Goals for 2030

by Caleb Barber
Daily Emerald, January 13, 2023

The Lower Snake River dams, a significant source of EWEB's hydroelectric power,
is currently being considered for removal due to their disruption of salmon runs throughout the year.

Map: USA Solar Resources A larger customer base and its greater dependence on electricity over fossil fuels as well as an industry-wide concern over hydroelectric power regulation were contributing factors to Eugene Water and Electric Board's 2022 Integrated Resource Plan.

The plan is a projection of EWEB's energy composition needs going into the next decade based on the company's analysis of its current sources of electricity.

EWEB is seeking public input before the IRP is finalized in June. In a media release, EWEB Communications Specialist Aaron Orlowski said EWEB is actively looking to meet with community groups and environmental justice organizations for dialogue about the analysis conducted in this plan.

Fossil Free Eugene, a coalition of grassroots organizations that have continuously urged the city of Eugene to move away from natural gas, frequently organizes climate testimonies at Eugene city council public forums. It advocates for the banning of natural gas in new construction in the city by Jan. 1 and the transition of all city utilities to 100% renewable energy by 2030.

At a Eugene City Council public forum in November 2022, more than a hundred Eugene residents turned out to urge the Council to ban the use of natural gas utilities in new construction in the city by January of 2023.

Eliminating natural gas use in residential buildings would cause Eugene residents to switch their homes to all electric, Orlowski said, and people wonder if that type of ban would be too much for EWEB to handle.

Orlowski said that EWEB estimates 25% of homes in Eugene use natural gas for heating or cooking and a ban on natural gas in homes in Eugene would cause demand for electricity to rise about 1% per year.

The plan also projects an increase in demand associated with more electric vehicle usage in the coming decade. Oregon's Environmental Quality Commission recently approved a ban on the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035, which would increase the amount of electric vehicles on Eugene roads. The IRP estimates that this would increase electricity demand by about 2% per year until 2030.

EWEB's previous IRP informed its decision to respond to increased demands of electricity with incentives for customers to reduce their electricity consumption. If EWEB saw that electricity demand was going to rise, it would increase the incentives it gave to customers to reduce their electricity consumption. Those incentives include rebates for electric heat pumps or installing insulation to reduce the amount of electricity EWEB customers use in their homes.

"Different renewable energy resources have dropped in price a lot," Orlowski said in an interview with the Daily Emerald. "It's way cheaper today to get wind and solar than it was 10 years ago, but some of the types of energy resources that we relied on for a long time are potentially facing some new restrictions in the future."

The IRP projects a rise in demand for electricity from now until 2030.

"People are switching out their gasoline powered cars for electric vehicles, and they're switching out their gas furnaces for electric heat pumps," Orlowski said.

EWEB's sources of electricity are 90% carbon free, with about 80% of its composition being made up of hydroelectric power generated from dams operated by the Bonneville Power Administration, Orlowski said.

The IRP anticipates regulations protecting fish species in the Willamette Valley will impact the feasibility of its hydroelectric energy sources.

"We don't know how climate change might impact river flows, or if there will be new regulations to continue to protect fish species like salmon," Orlowski said.

Already, in EWEB's first Board of Commissioners meeting of 2023, commissioners unanimously voted to move forward with the process of decommissioning Leaburg Dam. EWEB shut down the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project in 2018 due to internal erosion and seismically vulnerable soils along portions of the Leaburg Canal.

While erosion and water flow are important considerations for EWEB to make when determining when to decommission a hydroelectric project, Orlowski said that future policy protecting salmon species may also impact the decision to decommission a dam.

For instance, the Lower Snake River Dam, a significant source of EWEB's hydroelectric power, is currently being considered for removal due to its disruption of salmon runs throughout the year.

Removing the dam(s) would take years, so while discussion for the dam's removal is ongoing, Orlowski said it's not an imminent concern for EWEB, though the IRP still accounts for the possibility of the removal of dams like these before 2030.

The City of Eugene projects significant population growth in the coming decade. Envision Eugene, an advisory committee focusing on the city's urban growth and housing availability, estimated in 2022 that the number of people living in Eugene by 2032 will increase by almost 34,000.

EWEB's major challenges with integrating wind and solar into its energy profile is the transmission and storage of that energy. Building new transmission lines is a major hurdle to many of the energy companies in the state, Orlowski said.

"Building a transmission line requires crossing the property lines of a lot of different property owners," Orlowski said. "You have to get them all to sign on and work together, and that can be really challenging to do."

EWEB estimated in this IRP that transmission in a decade will be the same as it has been in order to make as accurate a prediction of future electricity output as possible.

Related Pages:
Planning for Eugene's Power Needs by Elizabeth Castillo, Oregon Public Broadcasting, 1/4/23

Caleb Barber
EWEB Sets Energy Goals for 2030
Daily Emerald, January 13, 2023

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