In August 2014, the Council released a request for proposals for a regional hydropower scoping study. The Council selected a proposal by the Northwest Hydroelectric Association (NWHA) to perform the work with the assistance of several subcontractors.

The Council’s objective for this study was to gain a better understanding of Northwest potential for new hydropower development and for upgrades to existing units, and the costs associated with that potential development. The Council’s last major assessment of hydropower potential was conducted during the development of its Fourth Power Plan in 1994. Since then there have been numerous regional and national studies identifying large amounts of hydropower potential. However, these studies considerations of costs, transmission constraints, environmental constraints (including the areas protected from new hydropower development as part of the Council’s fish and wildlife program) and other constraints were not clearly stated. (See the background below.)  The scope of the Council’s study was to review and analyze these existing reports and determine if a realistic, reasonable assumption for hydropower potential could be determined from that work. If a realistic, reasonable potential could not be derived, the contractor was asked to recommend next steps to develop a hydropower supply curve for the Northwest.

In developing a resource strategy for the regional power plan, the Council identifies and assesses various generating resources and technology alternatives. Assumptions based on cost, availability, regional potential, and technical specifications are developed for each resource. Those assumptions are discussed and vetted by the GRAC and are also subject to review and comment by the region’s stakeholders and public at large during the development of the Council’s power plan.

The results of this study, along with other sources and advisory committee input, will be used by the Council in its analysis of regional hydropower potential as part of its development of the draft Seventh Power Plan.