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NW Will Meet Energy Needs Without New Power Plants. That's the Plan.

December 14, 2015

A report by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council finds the region can meet nearly all of its energy needs for the next 20 years without building new power plants.

The exceptions may come from the need to replace the power from coal plants that are being retired.

Tom Eckman, power division director for the council, said the region can meet 100 percent of the projected growth in demand for power with energy-saving strategies such as upgrading old technology and contracting with industries to reduce their power use.

"Energy efficiency is the cheapest source of new power we have going," Eckman said. "The estimated cost of energy efficiency on a going forward basis is about half to a third of what new generation costs."

Eckman says the region can cut about a quarter of its total energy use through energy efficiency. The biggest single source of savings is replacing old light bulbs with LEDs.

However, he says, new power plants may be needed to replace the energy from three coal-fired plants scheduled to retire by 2025 in Boardman, Ore., Centralia, Wash., and Valmy, Nev.

The Council is holding a hearing in Portland Tuesday on its seventh draft power plan, which outlines a strategy for meeting the region's energy needs for the next 20 years.

The plan balances the lowest-cost power sources and those with the lowest carbon emissions. Analysts examined the potential for the region to eliminate all carbon emissions from the power system in the next 20 years and found it would require new technology.

"With existing technology we could get about 80 percent reduction in emissions," Eckman said. "If we had some solar storage, geothermal or wave energy we could get that number down to zero."

According to council spokesman John Harrison, the latest power plan doesn't aim for zero carbon emissions because "it would be very costly, of course, and we're constrained by cost."

Harrison said the plan aims for "the lowest-cost, lowest-carbon future."

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