NW Energy Experts in DC Talking Grid Update, Saving Fish
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Northwest energy experts and conservation leaders are in Washington, D.C. to urge policymakers to invest in modernizing the region's power grid. They say updating the energy system will provide for increased demand in Oregon and the Northwest and also help endangered species like salmon.
Nancy Hirsh, Northwest Energy Coalition Executive Director, said the Bonneville Power Administration is a key player in this 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 impediments 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 interested people have argued the lower Snake River dams provide valuable services such as irrigation and barge transportation, they provide little energy to the region, said Erin Farris-Olsen, Northern Rockies and Prairies regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation. She said a vision for the Northwest's future should including 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 added the Bonneville Power Administration should be more forward-thinking 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?," Hirsch said.
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