Stimulus Bill Would Boost NW Grid, Wind Energy
by Matthew Daly, Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 1, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The economic stimulus bill working its way through Congress includes $3.25 billion in additional borrowing authority for the Bonneville Power Administration, which says it will use the money to expand the Northwest's power grid.
The increased borrowing authority would help the power agency bring wind farms and other alternative energy sources online throughout the Northwest.
The projects would generate power for up to 1 million homes and businesses from northern California to Montana and create thousands of "green" jobs, supporters say.
"This investment will help give BPA the resources needed to create family-wage jobs and bring new energy sources online across the Northwest," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "This will allow us to get working today on creating a smarter, more sustainable power grid that is essential to our energy future."
Murray and other lawmakers called the BPA spending an investment with short-term and long-term benefits.
"This will help build critical infrastructure to facilitate renewable and energy efficient projects that BPA has planned but cannot currently build due to a lack of capital and the frozen credit markets," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. The energy projects should create thousands of jobs in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, he said.
The House approved the stimulus plan last week, despite unanimous opposition from Republicans. The Senate is expected to take up its version of the bill this week.
The BPA, based in Portland, Ore., is a not-for-profit federal agency that markets power from 31 federal hydroelectric dams and a nuclear plant in the Northwest. The agency accounts for about 40 percent of the electricity consumed in the region, serving about 150 utilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, as well as parts of northern California, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah.
BPA said the additional borrowing authority would allow it to speed about eight alternative energy projects now being considered. The agency now has about $2.5 billion available for capital investment, but the stimulus bill would more than double that. The legislation would lift the agency's borrowing "cap" from $4.5 billion to about $7.75 billion.
"Limited capital is our biggest roadblock to accomplishing infrastructure investments that support a transition to a green economy. It is very encouraging to see Senator Murray and the Northwest Congressional delegation successfully working to help us meet these goals," said BPA Administrator Steve Wright.
Most of the wind projects being considered are in Washington and Oregon, but the projects would benefit customers throughout the West, said BPA spokesman Scott Simms. As much as 4,700 megawatts of energy from wind and other renewables could be created, he said.
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