Manager’s Message – April 2021
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” —William Shakespeare
The assault on the Federal Columbia River Power System continues. Some of it is warranted. Most is not. We need state and federal collaboration and direct engagement to sustainably stabilize power rates, grid reliability, and aquatic species recovery.
Merriam-Webster defines sustainable as “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.”
I am a strong supporter of the sustainable properties of hydropower generation. It is the original renewable power resource that provides our customers and region with reliable, carbon-free electricity. As our region’s stakeholders continue to pursue the balance of hydropower, recreation, shipping economics, and aquatic-species recovery, efforts have put you and the rest of the region’s electric consumers—the sole financial payers in this morass—on an unsustainable path.
The federal government committed through the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to balance reliability, economics, and environmental stewardship. During the past 20 years, public power preference prices have gone up about 100%. This has not been borne on the backs of the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, or the Bonneville Power Administration, but solely on the preference customers of the region.
On top of these staggering economics, we continue to see the continued degradation of the power system capability. As the power sector looks to early retirement of coal and further decarbonizing the power sector, capacity—the ability to generate power regardless of weather conditions—is becoming a threatened species.
Removing dispatchable capacity resources without replacing them in-kind is not sustainable, as demonstrated in California last August and Texas in February.
This issue has diverged into two distinct paths. Path No. 1 was collaborative work done in the region and overseen by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to improve fish passage and in-river survival.
Path No. 2 has been constant and consistent court intervention, producing less power generation, less capacity, and increasing costs.
Regardless of path, this economic and system reliability burden is placed on you, our customers, and not the federal government, which committed to balancing these issues.
It is also noteworthy that neither path has led to full aquatic species recovery.
I seek a path for the federal government to stand on its commitment to maintain this balance of reliability, economics, and environmental stewardship. I seek a path where Oregon doesn’t return to past practice and be part of the litigious merry-go-round that negatively impacts both you and the environment. It is sad and intellectually dishonest that they have chosen this path again.
I do not support breaching or removing the four lower Snake River dams because it is simply a stupid choice from a power system, economics, and environmental perspective. But if raising this option at the federal level is the vehicle to meaningful engagement by the Northwest delegation—and real collaboration from Salem—then it was worth the time and energy expended.