BPA accelerates conservation programs

The current electricity shortage throughout the West and drought in the Pacific Northwest has prompted Bonneville Power Administration to introduce a new conservation program almost a year earlier than originally planned. The federal power agency is granting $200 million of incentives to utilities for conservation and renewable energy projects. Originally BPA had earmarked the funds to start the program next year.

Feb 16th, 2001


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Feb. 16�The current electricity shortage throughout the West and drought in the Pacific Northwest has prompted Bonneville Power Administration to introduce a new conservation program almost a year earlier than originally planned.

The federal power agency is granting $200 million of incentives to utilities for conservation and renewable energy projects.

Originally BPA had earmarked the funds to start the program next year. Conservation cannot start early enough, because of the current power shortage and the high cost of purchasing power in the market, says Steve Wright, acting BPA administrator.

The $200 million will be available over 5 years to utilities which buy wholesale power from BPA and agree to invest in conservation measures or renewable resources.

Each utility that chooses to participate will get a discount on its wholesale power by convincing customers to install distributed and renewable generation facilities. Each utility will decide how to spend its discount funds on the renewable projects.

�Installation of local renewable generation by individual customers qualifies for the discount,� said John Pyrch, BPA�s conservation manager. �This includes distributed generation such as fuel cells, photovoltaic arrays (solar powered facilities), wind generators, and fuel-efficient biogas turbines.�

Earlier this week, faced with colder weather and power shortages, BPA increased its generation output on hydroelectric plants on the Columbia River. The controversial move would reduce spring flows on the Columbia River by about 1%, BPA says.

�We are seeking to appropriately balance the needs of fish and electricity consumers during a serious drought,� says Wright. The federal entity which owns and operates 11,000 Mw of hydroelectric resources in the Pacific Northwest provides power to utilities and large industrial users. BPA has said it is facing a shortfall of 3,000 Mw this year because of increased demand for its wholesale power and reduced output from the drought.

Greg Delwiche, BPA vice-president for power supply, said spring runoff into the Columbia River is now forecast to be the fourth lowest in 70 years. Hydroelectric generation this winter has been on average 4,000 Mw less than the past 5-year average.

BPA also normally buys power from California during the winter when that state ordinarily has surplus power. The Northwest usually conserves its water in the reservoirs during the winter for the salmon migrations in the spring and for power generation during summer.

The power exchanges between the two regions has changed. The Northwest sends power to California year round instead of just the summer.

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