Region at the Crossroads--The Pacific Northwest Searches for New Sources of Electric Energy

EMD-78-76: Published: Aug 10, 1978. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1978.

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The Pacific Northwest region has entered a difficult transition period. Most large hydropower sites in the region have been developed, and additional large supplies of inexpensive hydroelectric power, long the mainstay of regional electric supply, are not available. Remaining damsites are less desirable and often involve substantial detriment in terms of environmental and recreational effect. The federal government, primarily through the Department of Energy's Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), plays a major role in energy management for the region.

Intraregional conflicts over access to federal hydropower and federal financial assistance have obscured the need for an updated approach to managing the region's electrical resources. It appears that congressional action will be needed to recharter BPA and to resolve the conflicts which now deadlock regional planning and decisionmaking. More information is needed before the federal government makes any firm commitments to guarantee the financing of new thermal power plants. Representative citizen involvement in planning and policymaking is essential to development of an acceptable electricity management program. Although long-range energy demand forecasts are critical to planning and policy analysis, they are too inconsistent at present. Pricing electrical energy at true replacement cost would result in greater consumer awareness and voluntary conservation. Arguments that higher energy prices will lead to economic disaster are not supported by the facts.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should relieve BPA of its charter responsibilities for encouraging the widest possible use of electricity and, instead, charge the agency with regionwide responsibility for development of electricity management plans and programs, encouraging conservation, and ensuring adequate public involvement in planning and policymaking. Congress should direct BPA to: (1) continue to market hydropower to preference customers in accordance with existing legislation; (2) develop and implement a plan for moving toward pricing at replacement cost, encourage conservation, and reduce disparities in regional power rates; (3) prepare and update a comprehensive electricity management plan for the region; and (4) conduct studies and tests needed to assess more accurately regional potentials for energy conservation. The Secretary of Energy should take the lead in establishing a representative regional power-planning board to exercise regionwide electricity management.


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