Last year was a year of celebrations for Energy Northwest, from record generation to celebrating years of providing clean, reliable, cost-effective energy to the ratepayers of the Northwest.
Energy Northwest develops, owns and operates a diverse mix of energy-generating resources, including hydro, solar and wind projects — and the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear energy facility. These projects provide enough carbon-free energy to power more than a million homes each year.
Two of the four projects owned by Energy Northwest commemorated decades of commercial operation.
The Packwood Lake Hydroelectric project celebrated 50 years of commercial operation in June. Packwood, in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, was our first electric power generation project and has a generation capacity of 27.5 megawatts of electricity.
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The Columbia Generating Station marked 30 years of commercial operation in December. During that time, Columbia sent more than 214 million megawatt-hours to the power grid, power that is provided at-cost to the Bonneville Power Administration. Columbia Generating Station produces approximately 1,170 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to about 8 percent of the energy generated in Washington. Ninety-two Northwest utilities receive a share of Columbia’s output.
In addition to celebrating years of carbon-free generation, all Energy Northwest projects exceeded previous generation records during 2014.
Columbia sent nearly 9.5 million megawatt-hours to the grid, beating the previous generation record set in 2012 (9.3 million megawatt-hours). Together, the Nine Canyon Wind Project and Packwood Lake produced more than 350,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, and Packwood achieved its second-longest run at 100 percent availability. Columbia is in its longest continuous operational run, breaking the record of 505 days set in April 2011. By March 12, Columbia had been online for more than 625 consecutive days. It has been more than five years since the plant had an unplanned shutdown.
For more than 30 years, Columbia has been a vital, affordable energy resource for the Northwest. Through our commitment to excellence in performance, the plant is well-positioned to bring competitive value to our region and to break more generation and other performance records during the next 30 years. The Energy Northwest team is making it happen.
None of these accomplishments was possible without commitment from our work force of 1,100 skilled workers. No organization can be successful without employees who are proud of what they do for a living and employees who are dedicated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
Regional power organizations — and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — have praised Columbia for its economic and environmental value.
Most recently, the Bonneville Power Administration credited Energy Northwest with saving ratepayers about $125 million during the coming 2016-17 rate period.
Those opportunities afforded by Energy Northwest, and its industry and regional partners, were the repeal of the spent-fuel disposal fee that the Energy Department charged the Columbia Generating Station, saving the region on average $7.4 million a year; refinancing of regional cooperation debt for 2014-17, saving about $29 million a year; and a decrease in Columbia’s operating costs, saving approximately $26 million a year.
The agency’s 2012 low-cost, below-market nuclear fuel purchase — enough fuel to last through 2028 — generated tens of millions of dollars in rate case savings and will save tens of millions more through 2028.
Columbia brings value as a unique, firm, baseload, noncarbon-emitting generation resource with predictable costs. Working with our partners, we have built on that to the benefit of the region’s ratepayers.
The region’s Public Power Council determined that during 2001 alone, at the height of the Northwest energy crisis, “the operation of (Columbia) compared to the market saved BPA ratepayers $1.4 billion.” A separate and independent study also estimates that going forward, Columbia will save Northwest customers at least $1.7 billion compared with the next best power option — combined-cycle natural gas — during the years remaining in its approved operating life through 2043.
Since nuclear energy is carbon-free, the Columbia Generating Station annually prevents 4.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere when compared with the Northwest energy mix, and more than 3.6 million metric tons when compared directly with natural gas.
In May, we will shut down the Columbia Generating Station for our biennial refueling outage. For our refueling outages, we typically bring in approximately 1,500 additional workers, which provides a boost to the Tri-City economy.
Our top priority during the outage, as it is every day, is safety and quality in all of our operations.
During the outage, we will refuel and perform equipment maintenance so we can ensure the long-term reliability of the Columbia Generating Station and continue, along with our hydro, wind and solar projects, to power a clean energy future for Washington and the region.