Energy efficiency is improving, wind power development may slow, assessment of regional power plan implementation shows

An assessment by the Council shows that the efficiency of electricity use continues to improve and that the region is on track to meet the Council’s goal to improve efficiency by 1,200 average megawatts in the five years between 2010 and 2014.  Expressed as power generation, that is enough for a city the size of Seattle. 

Energy efficiency is the Northwest’s second largest energy resource.  It now meets about 17 percent of the region’s demand for electricity and is still growing.  Hydropower, which supplies about 55 percent of the region’s power, remains the largest resource.

Meanwhile, development of renewable resources, mainly wind power, has continued but the pace may slow in the future because of changes in renewable energy policies in California, where much of the wind power generated in the Northwest is consumed.

The Council’s assessment is in the form of a mid-term report on implementation of its 2010 Northwest Power Plan. The power plan includes a forecast of electricity demand 20 years into the future and also an action plan for acquiring generating and energy efficiency resources to meet the anticipated demand.

“This assessment, which was developed with extensive public outreach and consultation, will help the Council frame the issues and policies that will form the foundation of our next regional power plan,” Council Chair Bill Bradbury said.

The Council revises the plan every five years; it provides overall guidance for implementation activities by the Bonneville Power Administration, the region’s predominant electricity supplier. The Council will begin work on the next plan later this year.

Other key conclusions of the mid-term assessment will help define the direction of the next Northwest Power Plan. They include:

  • The actual costs for energy efficiency acquisitions are well below the cost of other types of new electricity resources.
  • With non carbon producing resources accounting for more than 70 percent of the region’s energy supply, the Northwest power system has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions intensity of any region in the country. Recent announcements that the Boardman and Centralia coal-fired power plants will close indicate that emissions will be even lower in the future.
  • The character of the region’s power system is changing. Historically, needs for new resources were driven mostly by seasonal power needs. Today, however, the need to meet peak loads and provide flexibility to back up variable-output renewable resources is expanding the focus of the region’s planning and development of new resources.
  • Conditions vary across the region and from utility to utility. Some have growing loads, and others are flat or have lost large customers. Some have surplus resources, and others face deficits. These differences affect utilities’ incentives to acquire resources, including energy efficiency.
  • In addition to planned energy efficiency and renewable generation, additional resources will be needed to assure continued adequacy in the future. Planned utility resource acquisitions appear sufficient to meet these needs.