Bonneville Power Submits
by Christina Williams
The Bonneville Power Administration on Tuesday filed a formal plan of action in the event that springtime runoff again creates a situation of hydropower oversupply.
The plan addresses how and when other power sources will be shut down and how operators will be compensated. It was required by FERC after the commission's December ruling, which found BPA's curbing of wind power generation last spring was discriminatory.
Last month, BPA released a draft of its plan, which included a partial reimbursement for wind energy operators for missed revenue if the administration again has to require wind farms to stop generating power during times of oversupply, for comment.
It was met with dismay on the part of renewable energy advocates who said BPA was still discriminating against renewable energy generators.
BPA officials said Tuesday that the plan calls for asking wind energy generators to power down after all other reasonable actions are taken. During times of high water, federal system operators must run river flow through the hydroelectric system rather than spilling it over the dams to comply with environmental rules about protecting fish. Renewable energy advocates have said that the danger to salmon from water spilling has been overstated.
"We have heard and responded to the calls for a solution developed in the Northwest," BPA Administrator Steve Wright said in a press release. "While the time frame we had to deal with did not provide opportunity for a broad settlement, our filing today is based on extensive conversations with and comments from parties interested in achieving an equitable solution."
In a nod to comments provided since Feb. 7, BPA made a few changes to its original plan. Most notable is that the plan submitted Tuesday (available for download here) is set to only last a year, rather than the original proposal that had the policy in place until 2015. BPA also agreed to hire an independent evaluator to determine which energy resources should be curtailed first.
Still, renewable energy advocates were underwhelmed by the changes made to the plan.
"They made some changes on the margin but fundamentally it's more of the same bad policy," said Kevin Lynch, vice president of external affairs for Iberdrola Renewables. "It's discriminatory and it ignores what FERC ordered in the December ruling."
"BPA continues to illegitimately use 'salmon protection' as an excuse for its controversial policy," said Pat Ford, executive director of the nonprofit Save Our Wild Salmon. "But we and others have repeatedly proposed lawful solutions that are better for salmon and do not hurt the Northwest's wind energy industry. We deeply regret that BPA has failed to embrace any of these solutions, and will oppose BPA's policy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission."
Lynch said Iberdrola would also register its complaints with the commission.
Whether or not any plan will be needed depends heavily on the weather forecast. The Northwest River Forecast Center is projecting a runoff for January to July 2012 that is 92 percent of average, a figure that has edged up in the last month due to recent storms.
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