Don't let Bonneville squander clean energy jobs and innovation.

bpa.logo2Last year, we faced the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In many ways, this tragedy helped renew a conversation about our energy future.

While oil was spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, the Northwest was facing an incredibly stormy spring; lots of wind and rain led to a surplus of energy from both hydroelectric dams and wind turbines.

Yet, instead of using last spring’s abundance of power as an opportunity to expand and diversify the Northwest’s clean energy portfolio, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) – which manages much of the Northwest’s energy transmission – opted instead to undertake a planning process to deal with what it calls “over-generation.”

The result of this process is a protocol where, in times of high wind and high water, BPA will start shutting off wind turbines as a way to reduce surplus power on the region’s grid.  

By putting wind power on the chopping block before pursuing any number of other viable alternatives, BPA is shielding dam energy at the expense of clean energy jobs and wild salmon.

And now, BPA is poised to implement this “over-generation” strategy.  As temperatures rise this week and next, and more snowmelt fills the Snake and Columbia rivers, BPA will likely begin curtailing wind production – a move that harms Northwest renewable energy development and the good jobs that go with it.
In the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with emerging clean energy and energy conservation opportunities. Unfortunately, our region’s lead energy broker, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) remains active in the policies of the past.  In its ongoing effort to minimize the amount of water spilled over the dams to help salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers, BPA is now attempting to use salmon as an excuse to shut off wind energy production in the region when river flow levels are too high. You can download BPA’s “over-generation” proposal here.

Contrary to BPA’s assertions, salmon protection in the Columbia-Snake River Basin are linked with wind power, not in conflict. In the Northwest, we can have both – a truly clean energy future and wild rivers teeming with wild salmon.

Nevertheless, BPA’s proposal creates the false impression that we need to curtail wind in an effort to protect salmon – an assertion that is at odds with salmon science and causing confusion among leaders in Congress. The story has been covered in the Oregonian, the Seattle Times, and the Eugene Register Guard.  In addition, Congressman Markey (D-MA) recently sent a letter to Secretary Chu urging his leadership to change BPA's current course.
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