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No Power Shortage Expected for Northwest

by Staff
The Oregonian, February 16, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Northwest will not suffer a power shortage later this year even if the hydropower supply is below normal, according to an analysis by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Snow pack and runoff forecasts for the Columbia River Basin are far below normal for this time of year, but the supply of electricity from other sources, primarily natural gas-fired power plants, is adequate, the study found.

"The worst we would face is slightly higher prices this summer, but the good news is that we do not face a power shortage," Council Chair Melinda Eden said in a press release issued after Wednesday's meeting.

The snow pack in British Columbia, where the Columbia River begins, is 90-to-100 percent of normal. But the snow pack is well below normal in the Northwest states. In northeastern Washington and northern Idaho, for example, it is just 25-to-50 percent of normal.

The spring runoff at The Dalles Dam is expected to 82.4 million acre-feet, or about 77 percent of normal. While low, it is not as dry as the drought years of 2001, when runoff was 58 million acre-feet, and 1977, when runoff was 54 million acre-feet.

Moreover, the Northwest has a power surplus of roughly 1,500 megawatts, enough to power a city the size of Seattle. The 2001 drought worsened an existing West Coast power shortage.

The council, created by Congress to balance energy needs with fish and wildlife protection in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, also announced Wednesday it will study a Bush Administration proposal that would raise electricity rates charged by the Bonneville Power Administration.

"We'd like to have a better idea of the likely impacts on residential ratepayers, businesses, industries, and the regional economy, as well as potential impacts on the reliability of the Northwest energy system," Eden said. Bonneville, by law, sells power for its cost of generation, which is roughly 70 percent of the current wholesale market price. The Bush administration plan would raise the rates charged by Bonneville and the three other federal power marketing administrations so that they are closer to average market rates.

No Power Shortage Expected for Northwest
The Oregonian, February 16, 2005

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