Lunch and Learn With the Council

posted Mar 31, 2015


The upcoming Energy Efficiency Exchange Conference on April 21-23 is the largest gathering of energy efficiency professionals in the Northwest. In conjunction with this event, the Council will be hosting a lunch at its downtown Portland office for attendees to learn about the Council, its role in energy efficiency development, and what the future of energy efficiency might be.

We hope to see you there! 

Potential Gains in Energy Efficiency Remain for Seventh Power Plan

posted Mar 17, 2015


A preliminary assessment of potential energy efficiency shows that the region could gain about 5,100 average megawatts over the next 20 years; about 2,700 of that costs less than $40 per megawatt hour.

While the amount is about 1,500 average megawatts lower than the Council's last power plan, as a percentage of loads, its about the same. The region's success in achieving savings since the last plan, along with forecast savings from recently adopted federal standards and state building codes, have reduced potential. The region has surpassed the Council's annual targets every year since 2005. Still, there are a number of new measures and savings from advances in solid-state lighting, control devices, variable refrigerant flow HVAC systems, and efficient data center equipment.

The assessment data are inputs to the Council's regional portfolio model. Along with generation and demand response data, the results from the model will help identify how much of energy efficiency is cost-effective, and will be used to determine the energy efficiency targets in the Council's Seventh Power Plan.

Seals and Sea Lions Are Following Fish Into the Columbia River

posted Mar 16, 2015

Part of a group of harbor seals estimated at 6,000 on Desdemona Sands near Astoria, Oregon, in February. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Photo.

An aerial survey by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in February counted more than 6,000 seals and 1,600 sea lions in the Astoria area, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

Seals and sea lions enter the Columbia River annually in early spring and follow the run of eulachon -- small, oily fish formerly called smelt -- upstream. When the smelt are gone, the seals and sea lions prey on salmon, sturgeon, and lamprey before leaving the river in late May or early June for breeding grounds off the coast of southern California.

Biologists noted an increase in the number of sea lions in the Columbia in the spring of 2013, and again in 2014, possibly because of the coincident increase in the number of eulachon. The tiny fish tend to travel in schools and thus make an easy prey for marine mammals. The 2015 eulachon run is predicted to be large again.

Meanwhile, more than 1,600 sick and starving sea lion pups have been rescued along the southern California coast, more than five times greater than in 2013, which was the worst season in recent memory. According a report by NOAA Fisheries scientists, it appears the same pressures leading to starving pups in southern California are driving adult males far afield in search of food.

In the Columbia River, a large spring Chinook return of 312,600 fish (232,500 estimated for the upriver component, above Bonneville Dam) is beginning to migrate into the Columbia River. Ongoing research by NOAA Fisheries, which involves installing tracking devices on spring Chinook salmon in the estuary and then following their passage at Bonneville Dam, suggests that as much as 45 percent of the spring Chinook run may be disappearing between the estuary and the dam. Accounting for other sources of mortality, the lead NOAA researcher has reported there is a probable, but not verified, link to seals and sea lions.

Last week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued its first biweekly status report of the 2015 field season for seal and sea lion abundance at Bonneville Dam, noting that sea lions have been observed in the tailrace of the dam since January (Steller) and early February (California). Many of the California sea lions are young and travel in packs of 5-15, the Corps reported.

While regional fish and wildlife managers have legal authority under Section 120 of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act to remove the most problematic California sea lions, the process is complex and requires precise identification of animals that are repeatedly observed killing ESA-listed fish. Nonetheless, 73 have been removed from near Bonneville Dam through 2014.

Gas, Wind, Solar Will Be Modeled for Seventh Power Plan

posted Mar 16, 2015

A wind power plant under construction in eastern Washington.

Natural gas, wind, and solar power plants are the most significant forms of energy generation that, in combination with improvements in energy efficiency and demand response, will be included in modeling as the Council develops the portfolio of resources to meet future demand for power in the Seventh Northwest Power Plan, the Council decided this month.

The consideration of new demand response resources that are cost-effective and/or are available for use during periods of peak power system stress, is essential for a comprehensive approach to maintaining system reliability. New demand response resources will be evaluated similarly to new generating resources in terms of the cost required to develop a portfolio with the capability to dispatch a resource to reduce system stress at peak periods.

In order to find the best generating plants for the regional power system in the future, the Council evaluates a wide range of possible resources. Each resource is considered in terms of 1) its cost, including capital and fixed operating costs, and fuel and other variable operating costs; 2) the time required to put it into service; 3) the size of a typical generating unit; 4) generating (fuel use) efficiency; 5) emissions; 6) expected trends for that technology; 7) contributions to capacity, energy, and flexibility (the degree to which a resource can be shaped to help meet loads on an hourly basis, and its suitability to provide within‐hour reserves); 8) access to transmission; and 9) uncertainty levels of cost and technology.

The availability of a resource in the near term – three to five years – is a key requirement for inclusion in the Council’s resource portfolio modeling. The Council also analyzes currently available technologies that may play a role but have issues such as high cost or limited availability within the region, and technologies that are presently immature but hold some promise for the long term. These resources still play an important part of the analysis and should not be ruled out as potential resource alternatives. As such, these resources will be analyzed and described in the narrative of the power plan.

Key to these evaluations are the resource characteristics that will inform the Council’s resource portfolio modeling. In preparation for resource modeling for the Seventh Power Plan, this month the Council approved resource characteristics developed by the power planning staff in coordination with the Council’s Power Committee and the Generating Resources Advisory Committee. These characteristics will function as inputs to the modeling analysis.

The generating resources selected for modeling and inclusion in the next power plan, and described in a report to the Council, include natural gas combined-cycle and single-cycle combustion turbines, reciprocating engines (for peaking needs), and utility-scale solar photovoltaic and land-based (as opposed to offshore) wind-power systems.

Council Retains Market-based Approach to Fuel-switching Policy

posted Mar 13, 2015


Ever since the first Northwest Power Plan in 1982, the Council has recognized that consumers have a choice of fuels for their water heaters. The predominant choice is natural gas.

And ever since that first power plan, the Council has considered that switching from electricity to natural gas is not a form of electricity conservation under the Northwest Power Act, the federal law behind the power plan. The Act defines conservation as the “more efficient use of electricity.”

Nonetheless, consumers make choices, and there is great potential to reduce electricity use in homes by switching from electricity to natural gas for water heating. Consumers will decide whether to switch based on many factors, including cost of the fuel, cost of the appliance, personal likes and dislikes, and so on. But as the Council considers the future demand and supply of electricity, the potential and impact for fuel switching is an important consideration.

So, as the Council works on the seventh five-year revision of its power plan, the question of how to treat fuel-switching again is being addressed.

Currently, the Council recognizes that 1) the direct use of natural gas for some uses is more efficient than the use of electricity generated by burning natural gas for those uses, and 2) a market-oriented approach is the best way to assesses efficient fuel decisions in the region.

A study prepared by the Council staff concluded that if consumers selected their water heating fuel based solely on lowest cost, the forecasted demand for electricity in 2035 (the 20-year horizon of the power plan) could be lower by 114 average megawatts. However, the study also notes that figure is an absolute maximum and that actual reductions would be less. Nonetheless the market share of natural gas for water heating has been growing since 1986, and that trend is expected to continue.

After a public comment period, the Council provided guidance to staff to consider a slight modification of the policy, which would recognize that the changing nature of energy markets, the benefits from competition among fuel choices, and the desire to promote informed energy source choices support the Council taking a market-oriented approach to encouraging efficient fuel decisions.

Scenario Analysis Begins

posted Feb 11, 2015

Scenario Analysis Is Coming!

posted Jan 22, 2015

"The Objectives Process" begins

posted Dec 11, 2014

Why We Plan for Uncertainty

posted Nov 19, 2014

Why We Have a Regional Power Plan

posted Oct 29, 2014

Estimating Energy Efficiency

posted Oct 24, 2014

Seventh Power Plan 101

posted Oct 6, 2014

BPA Energy Efficiency Funding

posted Mar 12, 2014

Weathering a Cold Snap

posted Jan 17, 2014

The Seventh Power Plan

posted Dec 11, 2013

Designing for Efficiency

posted Nov 12, 2013

The Flexibility Challenge

posted Oct 30, 2013

Northwest Q & A: Robert D. Kahn

posted Oct 29, 2013

Tagging Sturgeon in Astoria

posted Aug 22, 2013

Habitat Tours Focus on Results

posted May 31, 2013

Sustainability Is Success

posted May 29, 2013

A Last Look at Condit Dam

posted Oct 24, 2011

Changing Minds, Changing the Land

posted Jul 26, 2011

Wind Power, Then and Now

posted Apr 18, 2011

The Rebound Effect: Is It Real?

posted Feb 1, 2011

An Update on Didymo

posted Jan 27, 2011

Didymo: A New Kind of Invader

posted Jan 18, 2011

A Good Year for Returning Salmon

posted Sep 30, 2010

Building a Better Battery

posted Aug 11, 2010

Using Batteries to Store Energy

posted Jul 28, 2010

Growing Summer Energy Demand

posted Jul 26, 2010

California's Energy Scene

posted Jul 23, 2010

Ensuring Efficiency

posted Jun 21, 2010

Making Wind Work

posted Jun 7, 2010

Clean Tech Draws VC Funding

posted May 3, 2010

And the Wind Came Up

posted Apr 6, 2010