shipping dock

Hydropower Creates Northwest Jobs

Hydropower is the unsung hero of the Northwest way of life. Our regional economy was built—and continues to thrive—on this abundant, low-cost energy source.

Hydro benefits businesses large and small, from companies that employ thousands to the neighborhood coffee shop with a staff of five. Industries that require huge amounts of energy to operate, especially, want to build facilities where that energy is abundant, reliable, affordable—and increasingly, renewable. That gives the Northwest a clear advantage over the rest of the country: Hydropower is the only resource that measures up.

Clean, carbon-free hydropower continues to draw major employers to the Northwest, including Boeing, BMW and technology giants such as Facebook, Google and Intel—all of them, creating jobs and boosting local economies.

In just one county in central Washington—Grant County, population 89,120—Yahoo, Microsoft, Dell, Inuit, Vantage and Intergate all have established data centers, drawn in large part by the availability of affordable hydropower.

These companies join traditional energy-sensitive industries, such as timber, paper, chemical, food processing, aluminum and manufacturing, which continue to rely on low-cost, reliable hydro to stay in business and grow. Together, these businesses represent hundreds of thousands of Northwest jobs—all fueled in part by hydropower.

Green pins are newer, energy-sensitive high-tech employers drawn to the Northwest for its abundance of clean, affordable hydropower.
Blue pins are traditional energy-sensitive employers—in the aluminum, paper, manufacturing and food processing industries, among others—that continue to thrive and grow here in large part due to hydropower.

Hydro Lures High-Tech 

bmw-widefeatureSource: BMW

When BMW executives chose Moses Lake in Washington state for a new production plant in 2013, they cited the region’s abundance of affordable, renewable hydropower as a decisive factor. The plant, run entirely on hydropower, produces carbon fiber for BMW’s i series, including all-electric, emission i3. Other energy-intensive, high-tech employers that have located in the Northwest to reap hydro’s benefits include Google, Facebook and Yahoo!.


Making Rivers Navigable for Trade

 Exports are key to the Northwest economy. The Columbia and Snake River system provide the primary route for delivering Northwest goods and products to national and international markets.

The river system provides a 465-mile river highway, with 36 deep water and inland ports, that moves goods and products on barges within our region and around the world. The dams and locks within this system make it possible for the barges to navigate otherwise unnavigable rivers. 

Barges move more than 42 million tons of commercial cargo, valued at over $20 billion, down the Columbia and Snake rivers every year.  Ten percent – or 4.2 million tons – of all Northwest exports pass through the four lower Snake River dams to provide food and products around the world.  This “marine highway” created by the dams and river system is the most environmentally friendly way to move cargo and keeps 700,000 trucks off Northwest highways every year. Barging enables Northwest farmers and industries across the region to transport grain, potatoes, fertilizers, wood products and dozens of other commodities—faster than by train or truck, and with less fuel.

cargo capacitySource: US Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District

By the Numbers: The River-Commerce Connection

  •  465: miles of marine highway created by the Columbia and Snake river dams
  •  700,000: trucks kept off Northwest highways every year, because goods are instead barged on this marine highway 
  •  $15-20 million: annual economic impact of cruise ships that travel on and dock at ports along on this marine highway
  •  42 million: tons of commercial cargo moves down the Columbia and Snake Rivers annually
  •  $20 billion: value of commercial cargo that moves down the Columbia and Snake Rivers annually
nwrpCommerce and Jobs