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) 16 lower Snake River dams.
The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), 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 percent, and solar 76 percent.
Idaho Power, for example, recently contracted to purchase solar energy at $21.75 per megawatt hour. BPA, contrarily, plans to raise public utility district rates by 2.9 percent to $36.60 by 2021.
In the meantime, the Pacific Northwest has a 17 percent surplus of power. Since the lower Snake River dams produce only 4 percent of the Pacific Northwest’s power, it fits into that “surplus” margin.
It’s clear that Pacific Northwest 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, Washington