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Northwest states project efficiency measures could meet 85% of new electricity demand through 2030

By Climate Guest Contributor on October 21, 2009 at 4:52 pm

"Northwest states project efficiency measures could meet 85% of new electricity demand through 2030"


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In an ambitious draft proposal, the official planning agency for the four Pacific Northwest states said last week that energy efficiency measures could meet at least 85 percent of new electricity demand over the next 20 years, with renewable generation and a limited amount of gas-fired power plants meeting the rest.

As Energy Daily (subs. req’s) reported recently, efficiency investments are the focal point for a detailed new plan drafted by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The Council, with members from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, is responsible for developing long-term (20 year) electric power plans and revising those plans every five years. Here’s a snippet from their press release for this plan, the sixth in a series:

“Energy efficiency is the keystone of the power plan,” said Chair Bill Booth, an Idaho member of the Council. “The Council has identified an impressive amount of low-cost energy efficiency, and we’re looking forward to hearing comments about our analysis of that potential.”

Sounds pretty good. An economically attractive, environmentally sensitive approach to meeting energy demand through increased efficiency investments. But c’mon, that wouldn’t be the first time efficiency has been touted in this blog. So what’s newsworthy about the introduction of this plan, especially as it originates from the granola crunching part of the Western U.S.?

First of all the numbers. According to energy experts, efficiency measures could provide at least 85% of new electricity demand over the next two decades. Not mentioned in the EE Daily article is a more impressive fact””that close to 60% of energy needs over the next 5 years could be provided through efficiency investments. Anyone out there want to compare this to how long it takes to get a coal or nuclear plant on-line, or for that matter to stack it up against the short-term (e.g. five years) solar and wind potential for that part of the world?

Second headline””the report actually acknowledges that Congress and the President will do something to put a price on carbon. It goes further””it says that the benefits of the efficiency strategy, one that promises economic and environmental gains, would be greatly enhanced by the passage of pending legislation. As reported by Energy Daily:

But if Congress adopts cap-and-trade legislation, the plan has the potential to reduce regional power system emissions to below 1990 levels, or 30 percent below 2005 levels adjusted for normal hydro conditions. And a carefully coordinated retirement and replacement of existing coal-fired generation with conservation, renewable generation and lower-carbon emission resources such as natural gas could cut emissions to 35 percent of 1990 levels.

Another take away is how rapidly the planning scenarios for major swaths of the national grid are changing. Just five years ago the Council figured that 2900 megawatts of energy efficiency savings would be affordable and doable. The new plan projects that over the next five years approximately 5800 megawatts would be cost effective.

The Pacific Northwest has been no stranger to problems associated with unreliable energy supplies.  It is, after all, the home of WHOOPS aka the Washington Public Power Supply System,  “which made the record books with the largest municipal bond default in history” after a failed attempt to finance the construction of five nuclear power plants.

And the plan is not without its critics. Here’s what some of the enviros had to say, as reported in Energy Daily:

“While no net increase in carbon dioxide emissions would be a groundbreaking achievement, we urgently need actual reductions,” a statement issued Thursday by a dozen regional and national groups declared. The draft [plan] will not make that happen.”

But let’s not bury the lede””more and more agencies, responsible for ensuring an adequate supply of electric power for the next two decades, are doubling down on energy efficiency AND want Congress and the President to adopt energy legislation that helps.

This post is by guest blogger Stewart J. Hudson, President of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation:

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