The Northwest Power and Conservation Council concludes conservation can help this region prosper for two decades without new power plants.

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THE Northwest Power and Conservation Council has seen the light.

Well, lighting. Changes in residential and commercial lighting alone will help power the regional economy for the next 20 years without building new generating resources.

An emphasis on conservation is at the heart of the council’s recently adopted Seventh Northwest Power Plan.

The region’s legacy of hydropower is valued, but so is the potential of energy efficiency. The council defines conservation “as reduced electrical power consumption as a result of improved efficiency in energy use.”

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Using less power draws less power from the least efficient generating plants. This is accomplished by promoting efficiency in residential and commercial buildings, residential and commercial lighting and appliances, street lighting, sewage treatment, and industrial and agricultural processes.

Low-cost, solid-state LED lights set the standard for efficiency, along with advanced power strips, water heaters, weatherization, clothes washers and other familiar devices.

There are lots of ways to use electricity efficiently, but lighting shines brightest. The optimism is backed by two years of research and number-crunching behind the latest report.

Council Chair Henry Lorenzen’s statement puts the next two decades in proper context:

“By investing in energy efficiency at the levels recommended in the plan, we’ll be able to grow our economy without initiating an aggressive program to build new generating resources, and we’ll keep Northwest electricity rates low and maintain our quality of life.”

The region’s credentials as a low-carbon leader can have their own lucrative appeal to people, businesses and industries looking to relocate.