Power Supply will be Stableby Staff
Lewiston Tribune, March 3, 2004
KALISPELL, Mont. -- The Pacific Northwest should have more than enough electric power for the foreseeable future, and the cost of it should remain stable, two new reports from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council suggest.
"Predicting the future is inherently risky," said Judi Danielson, the council's chairwoman, "but our analyses suggest the most likely scenarios based on current conditions."
The council, a multistate agency Congress formed to balance the needs of fish and wildlife against with the need for affordable hydroelectric power, said its analyses shows the Pacific Northwest currently has an electricity surplus and that the power supply for 2004 is in "very good shape."
Danielson said that while supply and demand very according to seasonal weather, it appears that surplus should last at least through 2008.
Currently, the Pacific Northwest has about 1,000 megawatts of surplus electricity, she said, or nearly enough to power a city the size of Seattle for a year (or roughly equivalent to average production of Lower Snake River dams, see powerbpa.htm). That surplus assumes the lowest average annual water supply.
One of the council's reports said the surplus is the result of a combination of several new power plants and aggressive energy conservation projects. In addition, demand for power has not fully recovered from the economic downturn brought by the energy crisis of 2000 and 2001, the report concludes.
During that crisis, the newly deregulated power market proved extremely volatile, with prices spiking to record highs and industries shutting down in the face of astronomical power bills.
But a separate report by the council said those wildly fluctuating power prices should settle down and remain relatively stable through the end of the decade.
That report indicates the wholesale price of electricity should be controlled by the anticipated power surplus.
Assuming average demand growth and average water behind the dams, wholesale prices should remain at or near the current $40 per megawatt hour through 2010, the report predicts. Prices then should decline slightly, assuming that cutting-edge power generation technology is implemented, offsetting increasing natural gas prices.
Today, natural gas provides about 15 percent of the fuel for the region's electricity plants, compared to hydro dams, which drive about 50 percent of the power grid.
New power sources will be needed as demand catches up with supply, the reports conclude, with likely sources including coal, wind and increased conservation programs.
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