In the Pacific Northwest’s rapidly changing energy scene, are the lower Snake River dams needed?
In its seventh Power Plan, the Pacific Northwest Power and Conservation Council states that, in the Pacific Northwest, energy efficiency alone will meet all projected future energy demand and by 2030, will have saved 4,000 average megawatts – the equivalent production of (an imaginary) sixteen lower Snake River dams.
The Bonneville Power Administration, distributor of energy produced by 31 Columbia Basin dams, says its average cost to generate and market power is $35.56 per megawatt hour. Since 2010, the cost of wind energy has declined 62%, and solar 76%. Idaho Power, for example, recently contracted to purchase solar energy at $21.75 per Mwh. BPA, contrarily, plans to raise Public Utility District rates by 2.9% to $36.60 by 2021.
Meantime, the Pacific Northwest has a 17% surplus of power. Since the LSR dams produce only 4% of the Pacific Northwest’s power, it fits into that “surplus” margin.
Clearly, PNW power needs can be met without the lower Snake River dams and at lower cost; and considering the “cost” of losing salmon runs once in the millions, Northwesterners don’t need lower Snake River power.
Battle Ground, Wash.