Northwest River Partners

“Clean Safe Reliable”
Ad Facts
May 2, 2022

“Climate change is here”

“Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence)”i

”Climate conditions in one part of the world can, over time, influence climate outcomes from thousands of kilometers away,’ said Hailong Wang, an earth scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, and one of four co-authors of the paper. ‘In our case, we find the Arctic region and the western United States are connected by this relationship.’”ii

“Last year’s heatwave was devastating.”

“’This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially to otherwise vulnerable people,’’ said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines.”iii

“’I think the community has to be realistic that we are going to be having this as a more usual occurrence and not a one-off, and that we need to be preparing as a community,’ said Dr. Steven Mitchell of Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, which treated an unprecedented number of severe heatrelated cases. ‘We need to be really augmenting our disaster response.’”iv

“But it could have been worse. Lower Snake River dams kept the power on for our region.”

“Without these four dams, powering through the heatwave could have been much more expensive and operationally challenging.” This is another example of the value these facilities provide the region from a clean energy perspective,’ said [Bonneville Power] Administrator John Hairston.”xi

“From December to March and particularly during the deep freeze of early 2021, the four dams on the lower Snake River were once again winter workhorses, according to a recent assessment by the Bonneville Power Administration. These four facilities not only provided important real-time electricity and critical power reserves, they also picked up slack when there was an equipment failure at Chief Joseph Dam – one of the largest dams in the Columbia River power system.”xii

“As we feel the impacts of climate change and the region builds more intermittent energy resources like wind and solar, we’re seeing more evidence that these dispatchable hydroelectric facilities are vital to public safety and electric reliability for the region,’ said BPA Administrator John Hairston.”xiii

“Removing them could raise power rates by 25% or more.”

“If Bonneville had to replace the four lower Snake River projects’ full capability with zero-carbon resources, the rate pressure could be up to 50% on wholesale power rates.”xiv

“In fact, nearly 2/3 of Washington’s electricity comes from hydropower dams.”

“Figure 3.1: Washington State Electric comes from hydropower dams.” Utilities Aggregate 2017 Fuel Mix: Using Net System Mix: Hydro, 67.7%; Coal, 13.4%; Natural Gas, 10.8%; Nuclear, 4.2%; Wind, 2.8%; Biomas, 0.6%; Biogas, 0.1%; other, 0.3%”xv

“And the only way to replace the reliability of dams would be by burning fossil fuels, making the impact of climate change even worse.”

“GHG emissions would increase the most if the hydropower were replaced with natural gas. This would lead to an additional 3.3 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2, a 9% increase in powerrelated emissions across the Northwest. However, even assuming the new replacement resources to maintain regional reliability are variable renewables (the base case of solar with batteries), some increase in fossil fuelbased generation from existing power plants would occur to maintain system reliability, leading to an additional 1.3 MMT of CO2 annually (a 3.5% increase in power-related emissions in the Northwest). This seems counterintuitive but occurs because the magnitude and timing of the reduction in hydropower generation would occur in particular times seasonally or daily (e.g., during peak demand) during which capacity resources would need to increase generation in order to maintain reliability (i.e., to meet the demand for power and avoid blackouts).”ix

“First, without explicit policy support, the electrification of the state’s economy – in particular, the conversion of various transportation uses from gasoline and diesel – will likely not be served entirely with renewable energy. Hydro is the main source of power in the existing mix, but Washington cannot add new large hydro projects to meet growth in electricity demand. A likely scenario is that utilities would meet growing demand with a combination of natural gas generation and enough new renewables to comply with the 15 percent standard under the EIA.”x

i The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C,”

ii “Study draws link between melting Arctic ice and Western U.S. fires that flare in the fall,” by Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times, Dec. 20, 2021:

iii “Authorities investigate hundreds of deaths linked to torrid Pacific Northwest weather,” by Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY, June 30, 2021:

iv “Hundreds believed dead in heat wave despite efforts to help,” by Andrew Selsky, The Associated Press, as published in The Seattle Times, July 1, 2021 v “Lower Snake River dams help region power through recent heatwave: Ice Harbor key to relieving transmission congestion in Tri-Cities,” press release by, The Bonneville Power Administration, July 22, 2021:

vi “Lower Snake River Dams provided crucial energy and reserves in winter 2021,” press release by, The Bonneville Power Administration, June 16, 2021:

vii “Executive Summary: Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement,”; and “Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement,” page 3-889 shows 54% of average utility rates are attributable to power supply; and “Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement,” page 3-969 shows a 14% increase in retail residential rates for some counties, which only includes ½ of the cost for replacement. Doubling would get it to 28%.

viii “2019 Biennial Energy Report: Issues, Analysis and Updates,” Washington State Department of Commerce:

ix “Executive Summary: Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement,”

x “2019 Biennial Energy Report: Issues, Analysis and Updates,” Washington State Department of Commerce: of note, this statement was made prior to passage of Washington State’s Clean Energy Transformation Act which places an even heavier burden on the state’s utilities in the near term.