Addressing the impact of climate change is a national and global priority. But as other regions scramble to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels for energy, the Northwest is in a very different—and enviable—position. The reason? Hydropower and the Columbia and Snake river system.
In the Northwest, we already meet nearly 60 percent of our electricity needs with a carbon-free, renewable energy resource: hydropower. In years when rainfall and snowpack produce a higher water flow, that percentage rises even higher.
Hydropower, unlike coal-fired power or natural gas, produces no carbon emissions. As a result, our carbon footprint is half that of other parts of the country.
No Measurable Methane Emissions
Some hydropower reservoirs that are rich in nutrients support the growth of large amounts of vegetation, which decompose and release methane gas. These emissions can contribute to climate change.
Fortunately, dam reservoirs on the Columbia and Snake rivers don’t have these necessary characteristics for methane production. As a result, they don’t produce measurable amounts of methane gas. This lack of measurable methane emissions is another reason why hydropower is the Northwest’s largest source of clean renewable energy.
What It Means to Be Carbon-Free
Renewable Energy Backbone of the Northwest
Wind and solar tend to grab the headlines, but in the Northwest, it’s hydropower that supplies 90 percent of the region’s renewable energy. Because the rivers are forever flowing, hydropower can always be relied on to meet the energy needs of Northwest citizens, even in low water conditions.
In the Northwest, hydro is also a tool used to back-up intermittent generators, like wind or solar. Hydro generation can be quickly adjusted to follow changes in wind production. Simply put, when wind and solar can’t show up for work, hydropower is always available at the flick of a switch.