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Canadian Urges Cooperation on Energy

by Associated Press
Lewiston Tribune - November 22, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A top Canadian official Friday urged greater cooperation with the United States to develop alternative energy and limit the impact of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Canadian Secretary of State Stephen Owen urged expansion of wind, solar, geothermal and hydrogen-based power to support economic growth in the western United States and Canada and to reduce environmental pollution.

Owen also recommended development of a "HI-5" freeway, an acronym for a future Interstate 5 corridor with hydrogen fuel stations stretching from British Columbia to southern California.

"That's really the future and a tremendous business opportunity for both of us," Owen said, referring to both nations.

"We're just getting started in Canada but the the U.S. has been more aggressive," he said.

Earlier Friday, Bonneville Power Administration chief Steve Wright said the West and Canada need to move quickly to expand electric generating and transmission capacity in order to sustain economic growth and prevent another crisis like the one that short-circuited the region in 2001.

Wright told a conference of regional energy and utility industry leaders that the 2001 crisis was triggered by record drought that reduced hydroelectric capacity, failed utility deregulation in California, and illegal market manipulation by Enron Corp.

"But I believe if you did an analysis of the root cause, I think you'd find the fundamental problem was a lack of investment in energy infrastructure," Wright told the Pacific Northwest-Western Canada Energy Forum Friday.

Wright noted that Bonneville operates 75 percent of the high-voltage transmission lines in the Pacific Northwest but there has been very little expansion of the system in the past 15 years.

Since he took over the federal power marketing agency in the middle of the energy crisis, he said Bonneville has doubled its investment in the transmission system.

The Pacific Northwest energy system is a linchpin in the Western grid that stretches across 11 states, but it depends on hydropower for 60 percent of its capacity, compared to an average of about 15 percent for other regions.

The distinction, Wright said, is a key issue in the effort to build regional transmission organizations under a mandate by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has asked the utility industry to develop a better system of sharing power and preventing breakdowns like the one that caused the massive Northeast blackout last August.

Generating plants in the East and South can compete more easily on prices and run on coal, natural gas or nuclear power that allows a steady flow of electricity which can be adjusted to respond to local demand.

But Bonneville has to deal with unpredictable weather and seasonal fluctuations in the water supply to maintain a steady flow of electricity from the system of dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers, Wright said.

If demand increases, it is not always possible to generate more power through the hydroelectric system.

"The Northwest is different from the rest of the country," Wright said. "A system of competition between plants doesn't work as well for us."

Yakout Mansour, vice president of the British Columbia Transmission Corp., warned the Northwest remains vulnerable to a blackout like the one that crippled cities from New York to Detroit last summer.

Like Wright, he urged increased generation and transmission development or the energy supply will fail to keep up with expected growth.

"Is the West prepared for economic recovery? I have a very simple answer," Mansour said, "No!"

Associated Press
Canadian Urges Cooperation on Energy
Lewiston Tribune, November 22, 2003

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