Council Sees Enough Water to Run Hydroby Nicholas Geranios, Associated Press
The Dalles Chronicle, January 21, 2007
Snowpack, rain, snow bode well for Columbia River power production
SPOKANE, Wash. -- There should be enough water in the Columbia River Basin to produce a normal supply of electricity this spring and summer, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council says.
The forecast, based on measurements of snowpack and assuming normal precipitation through the end of July, predicted that this year's runoff at The Dalles Dam would be 98 percent of the 30-year historical average.
The forecast runoff volume in other areas of the basin ranged from a low of 82 percent of average at Idaho Power Co.'s Brownlee Dam on the Snake River, to a high of 126 percent of normal for the Yakima River.
The forecast for giant Grand Coulee Dam was 100 percent of normal, the council said.
"The regional surplus of electricity, combined with the predicted average runoff, is good news for Northwest electricity consumers because it means high prices are unlikely," council Chairman Tom Karier of Spokane said in a news release.
The Northwest enjoys an electricity surplus of about 3,900 average megawatts, or more than enough power for two cities the size of Seattle.
That assumes that electricity generated by independent power producers, about 2,700 megawatts, would be available in the Northwest. Even if that power were sold outside the region, there would still be a 1,200 megawatt surplus, the council said.
The supply and price of electricity should remain at average levels through the spring and summer even if the U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore., orders an increase in water spills at Snake and Columbia river dams to aid passage of salmon and steelhead, the council said.
While electricity shortages started appearing in the Northwest a few years ago, the region now has a power surplus. That's largely because annual electricity demand plummeted after aluminum smelters closed during the big power crunch in 2001.
The demise of that industry turned back the clock on energy demand to the level of 1989 -- about where it remains today. Meanwhile, new gas-fired power plants have added thousands of megawatt-hours of generating capacity.
The council is an agency of the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington and is charged with developing plans to assure the Northwest an adequate power supply while protecting fish and wildlife affected by hydropower dams.
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