Q: How is the power plan developed?

The process to develop the regional power plan takes about two years and is conducted by the Council’s power division staff, working in coordination with advisory committees, who have technical expertise in economics, engineering, forecasting, and modeling. 

Analysts prepare forecasts of the Northwest’s economy, electricity demand, and energy prices; estimate the available cost-effective energy efficiency and set regional targets; identify generating resources that can help achieve a secure and affordable power supply; and model the operation of the regional power system, electricity markets, and scenarios to identify adaptive, least-cost resource strategies for the region.

The Council’s advisory committees, and all interested parties, are involved in this open process, providing their perspectives throughout the development of the plan.

Q: What are key factors affecting the 2021 plan?

There are many changes since the last plan, released in 2016. Coal plants are retiring and clean energy policies in the Northwest and across the Western grid, along with inexpensive renewables, are spurring a large build out of generation. Early scenario modeling suggests that surplus energy will mean low and frequently negative prices by 2030. Natural gas and combustion turbine prices will also be low. The ability to interrupt generation will be of paramount importance. All these changes will make energy efficiency less competitive.

Q: How is scenario analysis used in the Council’s power planning process?

Scenario analysis simulates numerous resource plans across a broad range of possible futures to identify tradeoffs between expected cost and risk. It’s a way to gain insight into how alternate choices play out.

Q: What are baseline conditions?

Baseline conditions are a basis for comparison when developing scenarios; they’re assumptions common between two or more scenarios. They’re not business as usual, the most likely scenario, the default forecast or the recommended regional resource strategy.

Q: What role will energy efficiency play?

Scenario analysis is still ongoing, however early results show that the extremely low costs of renewable resources, their ability to lower emissions quickly, and their ability to be interrupted are huge advantages in the 2021 world. Low market prices that are decreasing over time also reduce the value of energy efficiency as a hedge.