Climate Change in the 2021 Power Plan

The impact of climate change on the Pacific Northwest’s power system was the topic of a presentation to the Council at its June 11 meeting, and also a discussion at a workshop held at the Council on May 1.  The Council is in the process of developing its regional power plan and is seeking input on how to incorporate potential climate change impacts in its modeling.


At both sessions, David Rupp, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at Oregon State University, presented information on the science behind climate change and how researchers approach building a global climate model.


Rupp reviewed four future scenarios of the likely trajectory of carbon emissions based on different assumptions about population, economic growth, energy consumption, and land use over this century. This limited set of scenarios, called representative concentration pathways, helps ensure that the research can be compared by using a consistent baseline of data.


At the May workshop, Gillian Charles, energy policy analyst, presented an overview of the region’s utilities’ integrated resource plans, noting that most utilities have not explicitly included climate change in their load forecasts and were perhaps hoping to see guidance on this in the Council’s power plan. Representatives from the Bonneville Power Administration and Seattle City Light also presented information on their approach to modeling climate change.


Power Division Director Ben Kujala noted that the Council’s intent is to look at the best information and the best way to incorporate it in the Council’s models.


“The Council’s goal is to ensure the region of an adequate, reliable, and affordable power supply—so we’re trying to make sure we arrive at a robust resource strategy for the region.”


A portion of the workshop focused on the Council’s proposed approaches to capturing the effects of climate change over the next 20 years in its load forecast, energy efficiency analysis, resource adequacy assessment, regional portfolio analysis, generating resources analysis, and fuel price analysis.