The Council's last major assessment of hydropower potential in the region was undertaken as part of its Fourth Power Plan, released in 1998. Recently, a number of high-profile studies have identified a significant amount of potential in the Pacific Northwest.
The Department of Energy's 2014 assessment cited almost 25 gigawatts of potential, which approaches the region's current hydropower capacity of about 33 gigawatts.
In order to gain a better understanding of the various estimates, the Council will issue a request for proposal for a scoping study. The selected consultant will review the existing studies to determine if there is a realistic assumption for potential, focusing on upgrades at existing facilities, new stream reaches, opportunties at existing non-power dams. The Council's power division staff, generating resources advisory committee and hydropower subgroup will review the results and recommend next steps to the Council.
At its June power committee meeting, Council members noted the need to be realistic, particularly with regard to protected areas and cost-effectiveness.
The draft timeline is to select a consultant in late-July, with the study concluding by November.