More Energy Efficiency Is All the Northwest Needs for 20 Years Of Electricity

In great news, energy efficiency and programs that reduce peak electric demand are the only new "sources of energy" needed for the next 20 years in US Northwest, says the region’s power planning agency, Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Given this, why do regional utilities continue burning coal and creating plans for more big gas power plants?, they ask.  

"The 7th Power Plan shows that investments in energy efficiency and reducing electricity during periods of peak demand can allow our states to reliably and affordably meet our region’s needs while taking action to mitigate climate change," notes Bill Arthur, of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. "Our utilities must listen to the recommendations of their own industry’s experts and continue building our clean energy economy instead of clinging to climate-polluting fuels of the past." 

Northwest Power Plan

In addition to efficiency, they should prioritize solar and wind, says the Council, because prices have dropped so much, and make use of existing natural gas plants while closing sources of coal.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council plans for the power needs of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Western Montana, developing 20-year forecasts every five years and the mix of energy resources necessary to meet anticipated demand.  

Energy efficiency is currently the region’s biggest "energy source" after hydroelectricity, and coupled with programs like demand-response, 4.5 gigawatts of electricity demand can be eliminated over the next 20 years, they say. After 34 years of energy efficiency programs, ratepayers are saving $3.5 billion a year on electricity bills! 

Not only is coal unnecessary to fulfill those demands, coal-fired power plants are becoming increasingly expensive to operate, they say. Yet, a third of Oregon’s electricity still comes from coal, for example.

Costs at Montana’s, Colstrip Generating Facility, for example, have been rising 7% a year for the past 14 years, they point out, and faces mounting financial liabilities from air and water quality violations, leaking toxic waste ponds, and other environmental problems.  The coal-fired power plant supplies the region with electricity.

The Council will host public hearings on its 7th Power Plan across the four Northwest states:

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