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Power Council says Conservation is Key

by Michael Jamison
Missoulian - December 12, 2004

KALISPELL -- The region will need more electricity if it is to avoid another energy crisis, and it will be cheaper to squeeze the extra juice from conservation than it will be to build new power plants.

That's the message from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a five-state collaborative body created by Congress in 1980 to provide long-range regional power planning.

Starting Monday, the council meets for four days in Portland, Ore., where members are expected to approve the fifth Northwest Power Plan, a document analyzing regional power supplies and providing guidance for the coming two decades.

The plan focuses on cutting demand as a way to reduce the risk of power shortages and price spikes. Shortages and spikes are of particular interest, and remain on many minds four years after skyrocketing prices in 2000 darkened many major industries.

Not unexpectedly, an upsurge in energy conservation followed the months of high prices, as the region's residents and industries looked for ways to cut costs.

In 2001, major utilities and the Bonneville Power Administration combined to spend $150 million on energy conservation, the largest annual expenditure ever. The effort reduced demand by about 150 megawatts, enough to power nearly 90,000 homes.

By the end of 2002, conservation had been supplemented by 3,200 megawatts of new power production, and by 2004 council chairwoman Judi Danielson declared the Pacific Northwest flush with a 1,000-megawatt surplus - enough to power a city the size of Seattle.

Since the council was formed 25 years ago, the region has saved an estimated 2,600 megawatts through conservation, relying on more efficient equipment, insulation, heating, cooling and lighting at both homes and businesses.

More of the same is called for in the proposed plan, which indicates that half of the additional power needed over the coming 20 years can be met by conservation measures at a cost equal to or less than that of building new gas- or coal-fired power plants.

The plan also leans heavily on wind-driven electricity, as well as new "clean-coal" technology, to augment conservation.

Michael Jamison
Power Council says Conservation is Key
Missoulian, December 12, 2004

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