March 7, 2023
By Eric Tegethoff, Producer
Northwest energy experts and conservation leaders are in Washington, D.C. to urge policymakers to invest in modernizing the region's grid. Updating the energy system will provide for increased demand in the Northwest and also help endangered species like salmon, they said.
Nancy Hirsh, Northwest Energy Coalition Executive Director, said the Bonneville Power Administration is a key player and urges the agency to help develop new transmission and energy storage and build new renewable energy resources.
"It's going to help the region be more resilient, create a more flexible power system and take pressure off of the federal hydro system, which is going to be better for fish," she said.
As summers get hotter from climate change, the Northwest is expected to see a 50% increase in demand by 2050. One of the biggest impediment for salmon in the region is four lower Snake River dams. Experts in D.C. hope to build on momentum from Washington Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee's report from last year that provided a roadmap for how the dams could be removed and the energy grid modernized.
While some people have argued the lower Snake River dams provide valuable services such as irrigation and barge transportation, Erin Farris-Olsen, the Northern Rockies and Prairies regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation said they do not provide much energy to the region, and called for a vision for the Northwest's future that includes modernizing its infrastructure.
"The question is not just about recovering salmon but defining a future where both salmon and communities can exist," she said.
Hirsh called on the Bonneville Power Administration to be more forward-thinking in its conservation approach instead of protecting the existing energy system.
"We're interested in thinking about what's that future system look like and how do we start the investments needed today to get where we want to go so that the fish have a chance?," she said.