Energy conservation and reliance on wind power should be increased in the Northwest over the next five years to ease electricity prices and avoid the kind of crisis that sent prices...

Share story

PORTLAND — Energy conservation and reliance on wind power should be increased in the Northwest over the next five years to ease electricity prices and avoid the kind of crisis that sent prices skyrocketing in 2000-01, according to goals in a new regional plan.

The five-year plan approved by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on Thursday marks the fifth regional plan since Congress created the council in 1980 to balance energy needs with fish and wildlife protection in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The plan’s goals were generally praised yesterday by the groups involved in its development, including Indian tribes, utilities and consumer groups.

“Increased conservation and the reliance on green power such as wind power is good strategy for the region,” said Geoff Stuckart, spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

The plan is used to guide decisions by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the federal power marketing agency based in Portland that supplies about 45 percent of the electricity in the Northwest, mostly from hydroelectric dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said the energy conservation and wind-power goals are important, but tribes remain concerned about what they consider to be separate plans for energy and for salmon protection.

“It’s a good news, bad news thing,” Hudson said. “There’s a certain state of denial about the connectedness between the power plan and salmon-recovery plans.”

He said the good news is that the priority on power conservation through energy efficiency and increased reliance on renewable energy such as wind power will take some of the pressure off the Columbia River hydropower system.

“Yet we’ve continued to see this council pull salmon and energy policy through a very narrow knothole where cheap electricity always trumps the equitable-treatment mandate for fish,” Hudson said.

The latest plan was developed after the Western energy crisis of 2000-01, when failed utility deregulation in California combined with drought and reduced Northwest hydropower along with Enron market manipulation to drive wholesale electricity prices to record levels.

The council plan calls for saving at least 700 megawatts of power by increased energy conservation across the region over the next five years.

“If we fail to achieve the conservation in the plan, the cost of electricity, and the risk of shortages and high prices, would increase in the future,” said Judi Danielson, council chairwoman.

Much of the increased conservation would come from improved energy efficiency in lights, electric motors and heating and cooling systems, according to the plan.

Nearly half the savings would come from improved home energy efficiency, while an estimated 39 percent would come from commercial buildings and equipment. Another 12 percent of the savings could come with improved industrial energy use in equipment and buildings, and 3 percent from irrigation equipment.

“I think it’s a great plan,” said Marc Krasnowsky, spokesman for the NW Energy Coalition in Seattle, an alliance of more than 100 environmental, civic and service organizations, utilities and businesses in the four Northwest states, Alaska and British Columbia.

“It’s certainly feasible for us to meet our growing energy demands with increased efficiency and renewables,” Krasnowsky said. “But the hard part now is making it happen.”