Sixth Power Plan Summary

The Sixth Northwest Power Plan is the sixth five-year plan adopted by the Council since Congress passed the Northwest Power Act in 1980. The Power Plan, which guides the Bonneville Power Administration, details a strategy to meet future demand for electricity in a manner that assures an adequate, economic, affordable, and reliable power supply.

The Plan looks 20 years into the future. According to the Plan, Northwest population will increase from about 13 million today to 16.7 million by 2030, and load (the ongoing power requirement) will increase from about 21,000 average megawatts today to about 28,000 average megawatts by 2030, an increase of about 7,000 average megawatts overall or about 1.4 percent (about 339 average megawatts) per year.

The Northwest electricity system faces huge challenges:  uncertainty about future climate-change policy, fuel prices, salmon-recovery actions, economic growth, and integration of variable wind power. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective and least risky resource to meet future demand.

According to the Plan, cost-effective energy efficiency could meet 85 percent of the new load over the next 20 years (about 5,900 of 7,000 average megawatts). This efficiency, combined with new renewable energy, could delay investments in new fossil-fuel power plants until future environmental legislation is clear and alternative low-carbon energy sources have matured in technology and cost.

The resource strategy in the Plan includes five specific recommendations:

  1. Develop cost-effective energy efficiency aggressively — at least 1,200 average megawatts by 2015, and equal or slightly higher amounts every five years through 2030.
  2. Develop cost-effective renewable energy as required by state laws, particularly wind power, accounting for its variable output.
  3. Improve power-system operating procedures to integrate wind power and improve the efficiency and flexibility of the power system.
  4. Build new natural gas-fired power plants to meet local needs for on-demand energy and back-up power, and reduce reliance on existing coal-fired plants to help meet the power system’s share of carbon-reduction goals and policies.
  5. Investigate new technologies such as the “smart-grid,” new energy-efficiency and renewable energy sources, advanced nuclear power, and carbon sequestration.

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