Low Snowpack to Cost
by Kevin McCullen
PORTLAND -- The Bonneville Power Administration projects a net loss of $233 million this year because of low snowpack runoff, but electricity supply in the Northwest is expected to remain adequate and rates should not be affected, officials said Monday.
"Low water is the sole and most important reason," said Michael Milstein, a BPA spokesman. "It's now looking like the third-driest year in the last 50 years and the fifth-lowest since the start of record collection in 1929."
BPA released its fiscal year 2010 second quarter review Friday. The not-for-profit public power agency said it expects to earn $175 million less in secondary revenues -- money from power it sells to other customers after satisfying obligations to BPA customers -- for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
"Where we in a normal year generate enough electricity to sell some power, we'll likely be buyers this year to ensure we have enough to supply to everyone," Milstein said.
Consumers should not feel the pinch this year, however, because the rates BPA charges customers are locked in for the next two years, Milstein said. The agency is starting the review process leading up to the next rate period.
The supply of electricity in the Northwest is expected to remain adequate this summer in spite of the low runoff in the lower Columbia River, said the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
"Low flows will reduce hydropower generation below normal, but there is no danger of a serious curtailment to electricity service according to our analysis," Bruce Measure, council chairman, said in a statement last month.
The forecast for runoff through the end of August is expected to be 65 percent of average at The Dalles Dam, according to the Northwest River Forecast Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Snowpack in the Upper Columbia Basin in British Columbia, however, is about 90 percent of normal "and that's important because water in that part of the basin flows through more dams than on the lower portion of the basin," said John Harrison, a council spokesman.
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