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Report: NW Power Plan Shortsighted on Effects of Coal

The Northwest Energy Coalition is asking the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to take into account the expenses of coal plants in the region, not just the four-state area shown in red, in its new forecast document known as the Seventh Northwest Power and Conservation Plan. Courtesy: Northwest Energy Coalition.
The Northwest Energy Coalition is asking the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to take into account the expenses of coal plants in the region, not just the four-state area shown in red, in its new forecast document known as the Seventh Northwest Power and Conservation Plan. Courtesy: Northwest Energy Coalition.
July 17, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Northwest Power and Conservation Plan guides many utility-related decisions in the Northwest and is updated every five years. The newest draft of what is known as the Seventh Plan is being called into question for not taking some important expenses into account in its forecast.

A new Northwest Energy Coalition report points out that utility companies co-own power plants in multiple states - and there are nine outside Oregon and Washington burning coal.

Doug Howell, senior representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, said the council that writes the plan considers the plants' operating costs - but not the separate, capital costs of cleaning up their pollution.

"It's not too late, and the real challenge now is for the council to find a meaningful way to incorporate these capital costs," he said. "And one of the things that this study does well is to point out that the council now may need to be taking a more comprehensive view."

Howell said capital costs are huge as the coal plants age and have to meet more stringent federal cleanup requirements - costs most often passed along to customers. The Northwest Energy Coalition report asked that the Seventh Plan be revised while it's still in draft form, to include the other coal plants and their environmental compliance costs.

Howell said the Northwest Power and Conservation Council that writes the plan has an excellent reputation for its forecasting skills and tools.

"They know and they understand the limitations to their model," he said, "but they have yet to come up with how they're going to meaningfully account for all of these big-ticket items that really have everything to do with whether these plants should continue to operate or not."

The Seventh Plan is an energy cost and conservation forecast for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Public hearings will be held in each state late this year, before the plan is finalized.

The Northwest Energy Coalition's report is online at nwenergy.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR