Upcoming Energy Agenda
Some observers believe that President-elect Obama's energy agenda could be a financial boon for the Pacific Northwest, particularly when it comes to upgrading area power transmission capabilities.
Renewable energy projects are already well-represented in the Northwest, particularly in the form of wind farms. However, these resources tend to be located far from major population centers, making it more complicated to transport the clean power on the existing system.
This week, the Idaho Statesman reported that the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency, wants to build 600 miles of transmission lines, costing $1.5 billion. The newspaper added that the Department of Energy has estimated that it will require $60 billion in power infrastructure upgrades to handle future demand, especially in regard to renewables.
A plan by Washington's two U.S. Senators would reportedly double the BPA's current borrowing abilities, with an eye on promoting new transmission capabilities.
A number of related projects in the Northwest are already either ready to begin or are far along in the planning stages, which would make them attractive candidates for funding when and if Obama's green-friendly economic stimulus package is approved.
Dear Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Chairman Byrd and Senator Cochran:
We are writing to request that the economic stimulus package include $5 billion in additional United States Treasury borrowing authority for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Providing BPA access to capital unavailable on today's frozen credit markets will immediately stimulate the economy by helping create an estimated 50,000 direct and ancillary green jobs and allowing 4,700 megawatts of new renewable resources to come online in the next two years.
In order to remain a world economic leader we urgently need to transform and revitalize our nation's energy system to be cleaner, more diverse, and more distributed. Now is the time to make the long neglected investments necessary in our nation's electricity grid to increase its efficiency and reliability and to meet future demand growth by integrating more renewable and distributed sources of energy onto the grid.
According to a recent report by the Department of Energy, 20 percent of the United States could be powered by wind energy by 2030 if approximately $60 billion is invested in new transmission capacity over the next 20 years. However, future demand growth and the need to accommodate vast new wind farms and other renewable resources threaten to overwhelm BPA's current infrastructure and its ability to meet national reliability standards.
A timely increase in BPA's borrowing authority is needed to maintain the value of BPA's existing systems and to add new transmission capacity and smart grid technologies to meet regional load growth and a more diverse array of energy sources. Increasing BPA's borrowing authority will quickly enable critically needed energy infrastructure improvements to go forward, creating jobs and ensuring the continued economic prosperity and global competitiveness of the Pacific Northwest , which depends on reliable and affordable energy supplies.
In addition, increasing BPA's borrowing authority will have virtually no long term cost to taxpayers given BPA's 25-year record of making its annual payments, with interest, to the U.S. Treasury.
We look forward to working with you to include this vital measure in any stimulus bill considered by the 111th Congress.
Senators Cantwell, Murray, Wyden, Crapo, Tester, and Senator-elect Merkley
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