Electric Power:

Issues Concerning Expansion of the Pacific Northwest-Southwest Intertie

RCED-88-199: Published: Sep 14, 1988. Publicly Released: Oct 12, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Bonneville Power Administration's (BPA) plans to expand the Pacific Northwest-Southwest Intertie, focusing on the: (1) BPA justification for the expansion; (2) relationship of Canadian power imports to the intertie expansion; and (3) potential impacts on salmon and steelhead trout.

GAO found that: (1) BPA estimated that its costs for the 1600-megawatt (MW) addition would be $327 million, the net economic benefit of the addition through 2030 would be $661 million, and its share of net benefits would be $199 million; (2) BPA projected losses for the first 4 years and estimated that it would take 18 years to recover its investment; and (3) it was unclear whether the second 800-MW increment of capacity increase would result in net benefits to BPA. GAO also found that BPA estimated that: (1) Canada could receive $161 million of the net benefits and could further benefit if it decided to increase exports; and (2) losses of salmon and steelhead trout related to the expansion would be under 3 percent, but made its estimates with a controversial computer model called FISHPASS.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BPA performed a supplemental economic analysis, as recommended.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, BPA, should clarify the BPA economic analysis by providing a breakout of BPA costs and the sources and extent of revenues it expects for each 800-MW increment of the addition. Doing the analysis for each using the same regionwide net benefits approach that BPA employed in its original analysis would be useful. This information should help clarify the relationship between the economic basis for the BPA investment and noneconomic considerations, and it may also contribute to the decision about how much capacity BPA should pay for.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: Bonneville Power Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A contract was entered into with the University of Washington to review FISHPASS. A draft report, dated February 1990, concludes that FISHPASS is the best and most appropriate model to use for the time being. Though the draft report identified additional work to be done, the results of the review are not expected to change. The final report was expected May 1990.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, BPA, should contract for an independent review of FISHPASS and include the activities generally undertaken in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviews of models. The Administrator may wish to consult with EPA officials concerning the content and methods used in these reviews.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: Bonneville Power Administration


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