Plan calls for efficiency, conservation for Northwest's future power needs

By Drew Foster, Herald staff writerSeptember 14, 2009 

A plan that details the Northwest's future energy needs says up to 85 percent of power demand in the next 20 years can be met by increased efficiency and conservation.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a four-state compact created in 1980, recently released its draft Sixth Power Plan. If approved by the council later this year, the plan will guide the Bonneville Power Administration's energy decisions during the next five years.

"In the law, the Bonneville Power administrator is required to make decisions about future power supply that is consistent -- that is the wording in the law -- with our power plan," said John Harrison, the council's information officer.

A public comment hearing on the draft plan is being held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today in the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco. The public comment period runs through Nov. 6. Comments can be made on the council's website, www.

Doug Johnson, a public affairs specialist with BPA, said BPA supports the draft plan's reliance on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The draft plan's top four recommendations for satisfying the Northwest's future energy needs are, in order: Conservation and efficiency; using cost-effective renewable energy sources, especially wind power; increased reliance on natural gas power plants; and other sources not considered renewable -- including nuclear or coal-fired power plants -- Harrison said.

The states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana consume about 34,000 average megawatts of energy each year. An average megawatt can power about 700 homes annually in the Northwest. The council's power plan expects that figure to grow by 5,900 average megawatt in 20 years, and it believes up to 85 percent of that growth can be accounted for through efficiency and conservation.

"You can reduce your demand for power for a whole lot less than building another power plant," Harrison said.

He said much of that efficiency and conservation can be done in the home or office. Harrison recommended using compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of older incandescent bulbs. He also recommended insulating walls and attics and replacing older windows with more efficient ones.

He said further efficiency and conservation will come from national codes and standards, such as encouraging companies to build ENERGY STAR efficient appliances, which is being done.

"You basically cannot buy an inefficient clothes washer, dishwasher, refrigerator or freezer anymore," he said. "A big piece of this conservation comes from (the fact) that you don't even need to think about it besides buying a new machine."

Conservation can also be achieved, he said, through building code reform and the implementation of a smart grid that could automatically reduce energy use by recognizing when home and office appliances no long need to be powered, such as idling water heaters.

He said BPA's role in promoting efficiency and conservation would be to offer rebates and incentives to public utilities so customers can weatherize their homes for less. Or it could offer rebates to retailers that market and sell compact fluorescent light bulbs.

The council also addresses fish and wildlife management issues in its Fish and Wildlife Program, which complements the draft Sixth Power Plan.

The Fish and Wildlife plan addresses needs along the Columbia River hydroelectric system. Harrison said no "dramatic" changes were recommended to BPA regarding its fish and wildlife management.

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