Hello hydro-enthusiasts and welcome back to Runoff! You’re about to read the Northwest hydropower blog that’s taking a look back on a jam-packed 2022. Enjoy this entertaining special edition!
2022 hydropower year in review
Another year, another breaching challenge
Who had “Inslee, Murray launch study that could lead to tearing down Snake River dams” on their bingo card for late-2021 & 2022? Well, we sure didn’t!
Though this headline came in late October of 2021, it wasn’t until 2022 that the dial was turned up on what would become known as the Murray-Inslee Process. As soon as it was announced, we recognized the deck was stacked against the dams. After all, why Senator Murray and Governor Inslee launch this process if there wasn’t some degree of bias in favor of breaching?
With the support of our member organizations, we launched a major media campaign and grassroots effort to make the public aware of what was at stake—the region’s clean, affordable, and reliable energy future.
We had great partnership from the public power, agriculture, and labor organizations acorss the region in support of keeping the dams. We also commissioned an independent study that demonstrated the grid decarbonization challenge ahead. Removing the lower Snake River dams delays the achievement of existing zero-carbon laws by 3 to 5 years and adds millions of metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. The financial cost is also huge; approximately $15 billion on a Net Present Value Basis.
In the end, the ultimate recommendation concluded that dam breaching was both infeasible and burdensome. Instead, it called for greater emphasis on other salmon recovery efforts and renewable energy projects.
This outcome was a huge win for everyone who supports a clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy grid. Ultimately, we believe it represents a big win for salmon as well, because the science shows climate change is the greatest threat to salmon survival. Maintaining our clean energy infrastructure is a must.
Hydro to the rescue
While controversy over dam breaching dominated headlines, extreme weather and prolonged hot, dry conditions presented challenges for the entire West Coast. It was an unusual year, and perhaps a foreshadowing of what could be our future under climate change.
Fortunately, we saw less dramatic wildfire activity than in years past and California avoided energy blackouts. The latter was in large part due to Northwest hydropower.
As much as we tout the benefits of hydro’s ability to ramp up generation at a moment’s notice, the need isn’t always obvious to the general public, but occasionally, there are exceptions.
The June 2021 heatwave was one such example. When record-breaking temperatures struck the Pacific Northwest, Ice Harbor dam on the lower Snake was essential in providing the relief necessary to avoid power outage.
When a similar heat dome event hit the Northwest almost exactly on the same day a year later, hydropower was there to handle the demand once again.
As summer wound-down, California’s hot and dry weather continued without relief, the state’s grid operator found itself facing potential disaster as forecasted demand exceeded available supply. Many measures were taking to avoid blackouts, but Northwest hydropower was the hero, sending thousands of needed megawatts to the Golden State, keeping potentially lifesaving air-conditioning operating for millions of homes.
The lower Snake River dams, themselves provided 1,000 MW of generation during the peak hour of need—that’s about as much as large nuclear power plant.
Leading the charge for Northwest hydro
Our ultimate goal as an organization is to live up to our mission and let it guide everything we do. In 2022, we’re happy to say we did exactly that. Check out some of our highlights below…
- Number of states we traveled to: Eight (plus Washington D.C.)
- New members: Six
- Editorials placed: Nine
- News mentions: 26 (not including reprints)
- Chocolate salmon & bumper stickers handed out: Too many to keep count
- Submissions for “Your photo here” & “Hydro humor”: ZERO (C’mon!)
- We launched not one, but TWO ad campaigns.
We also grew our social media presence significantly (70%-124%) across all platforms and launched our profile right here on LinkedIn. So, when you’re done here, be sure to share this blog and recommend others to give us a follow. Let’s keep it going!
A word from us…
“I feel a special bond to the many communities we represent. 2022 was an opportunity after the pandemic to get out to those communities and hear their stories. More than ever, I’m convinced about the importance of the work we perform. It helps make electricity affordable for vulnerable populations. It also helps ensure we have a reliable and clean energy supply. Hydropower is the best tool we have to fight climate change, and we will continue to work hard to preserve it.” Kurt Miller
“We worked our tails off this year, but when I reflect back on it all as I sat down to write this blog, it’s obvious it was worth the effort. It also brought us closer to our members and colleagues, sparked new creative ideas, and kept every day interesting. That said, here’s to hoping 2023 provides us with a blank slate to broaden our focus beyond dam breaching battles and explore new territory in our work.” Austin Rohr
That’s going to do it for Runoff in 2022! We’ll be back on January 6th. Until then, we’re calling it a wrap as we wind down from a busy year and prepare to spend some time with family and friends. We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and if you just can’t get enough of us, you can find us on any of the social channels below…