Press Statement

January 28, 2020, Vancouver, WA,

New Industry Analysis: Cost of Replacing Energy Provided by Lower Snake River Dams 80% Greater Than Currently Considered Estimates

EnergyGPS Analysis Estimates Replacement Cost of Energy at $860 Million Per Year

Vancouver, WA, January 28, 2020 – Northwest RiverPartners, a not-for-profit,
member-driven organization that advocates for carbon-free hydropower, today
shared the results of a newly-commissioned analysis that evaluates energy
replacement cost estimates for the four lower Snake River dams (LSRDs). The
results show a striking 80% estimated cost increase for the Northwest when
compared with currently accepted analysis, should the LSRDs be breached.

The data refute widely accepted metrics from the now-outdated 2018 NW Energy
Coalition (NWEC) study that is receiving attention in the Washington Governor’s
LSRDs Taskforce and other regional dialogues currently underway to inform the
future of the LSRDs and its impact on regional communities.

Performed by the consulting firm EnergyGPS, the analysis is based on new data
made available after the release of the NWEC study, including current state
policies and forecasted energy capacity deficit for the Pacific Northwest.

“We continue to have great respect for the Northwest Energy Coalition and its
efforts, however, we now operate in a more carbon-constrained world, which
means the 2018 NWEC study assumptions are simply not aligned with the
current level of resource scarcity,” said Kurt Miller, NWRP executive director.

“Any decisions made over the future of the four LSRDs will affect all Northwest
residents and this new analysis from EnergyGPS underscores the need for
agreement on common assumptions and further research before any definitive
conclusions are made.”

Since the NWEC study release, significant policy changes have occurred that
shift the appropriate baseline to use for any LSRDs removal study including,
notably, Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (“CETA”) in early 2019.

This legislation, along with other state and utility actions to decarbonize the
electric sector, significantly reduces energy resources and places additional
importance on existing carbon-free resources.

The NWEC assumptions regarding energy load and supply and demand
resources are also largely based on the NWPCC’s 7th Power Plan which was
completed in 2016 and now dated. E.g. the NWEC study estimated 2,800 MW of
Northwest coal generation shutdowns in the next decade, which is nearly 50%
less than updated assessments. (1,000 average MW is enough electricity to
power a city the size of Seattle.)

Since the publication of the NWEC study, the Northwest Power & Conservation
Council, the Northwest Power Pool, E3, and Energy Strategies have all issued
significant warnings about a potential energy shortage or even blackouts
resulting from the retirement of thousands of megawatts of the region’s coal
plants. Notably, all these forecasts assume that the LSRDs remain in place. The
predictions would be much more severe if the LSRDs weren’t included in the
resource mix.

Consistent with these warnings, EnergyGPS found that the NWEC study
outcome would lead to insufficient energy to meet regional needs or would result
in replacement power costs of $860 million per year or $96 per megawatt-hour
(MWh) – approximately 80% greater than the cost presented in the NWEC

Most of the region’s hydroelectricity goes to serve not-for-profit, communityowned utilities, so the replacement costs would likely be borne by their
customers in the form of much higher electric bills.

EnergyGPS found other challenges with the NWEC study, including its
assumptions around attainable energy efficiency and demand response. In
addition, the NWEC study does not adequately discuss the appropriate priority of
LSRDs replacement resources relative to competing needs for new energy

The full EnergyGPS analysis can be found here.


About Northwest RiverPartners

Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization.
We represent not-for-profit, community-owned utilities across Washington,
Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. We also proudly represent farmers,
ports, and businesses across the region.

NWRP is focused on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower
system betters communities and the natural environment, and we encourage
science-based solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and thrive.
For press interviews, contact:
Oonagh Morgan Hurst
Morgan Communications