Risk of future power shortages declines in new analysis

The likelihood of future power shortages in the Pacific Northwest has declined over the last year, an analysis by the Council shows.

The predicted likelihood of shortage, known by the shorthand “loss of load probability” or LOLP, declined from 7 percent for the year 2017 in a Council analysis in December 2012 to 6 percent for the year 2019 in the Council’s current analysis. The Northwest power supply is deemed adequate if the likelihood of future shortages, LOLP, is less than 5 percent.

The LOLP declined in the most recent analysis because the amount of electricity from new power plants soon to come online in the Northwest is greater than the anticipated new demand for electricity in 2019. Important to this conclusion is the Council’s anticipation that the Northwest will achieve the Council’s energy efficiency savings target of about 350 average megawatts per year between 2017 and 2019. That achievement helps offset the need for more costly new power plants.

However, the risk, or LOLP, increases again by 2021 as the result of the planned retirements of coal-fired power plants in Boardman, Oregon, and Centralia, Washington. In response to those closures, the LOLP increases to 11 percent.

Actions to bring the LOLP down to the Council’s 5-percent standard will vary. For example, utilities have plans for new power plants totaling 1,800 megawatts of capacity for construction through 2024. These were not included in the analysis because it only includes plants that are sited and licensed or under construction. Another possibility to reduce LOLP on a short-term, seasonal basis is that utilities in the Northwest could import excess power from the Southwest when it is needed here, and send excess power from the Northwest to the Southwest when it is needed there.

The current analysis does not recommend any specific new power supplies, which likely will include a combination of new generating resources and demand-reduction programs. However, the Council will take up the matter in its next power plan. The Council’s power plan, which is revised every five years, always includes a 20-year electricity demand forecast and a resource strategy to meet the anticipated demand. The Council will be working on a revision of the current power plan, which dates to 2010, over the next year.