BPA Jolts Pacific Northwest

Published online: Apr 10, 2001
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As the reality of the Pacific Northwest drought continues to set in, agencies like the Bonneville Power Administration are making hard and fast plans.

In an announcement April 9 from the region's office in Portland, the PBA announced it will increase wholesale power rates by 250 percent-or more-on Oct. 1. The only condition that may cause a reduction will be the conservation commitments of retail utilities and large industrial users within the next 60 days.

Steve Wright, acting BPA administrator, said it has been recent developments in the market that will require such a hefty increase, absent vigorous efforts to reduce demand.

Wright said the increase would have major impacts on the region's economy, with some businesses already closed and more to follow because of the magnitude of the increases.

He said the current drought not only affects use this summer and next winter, which could pose reliability problems, but a major energy shortage in meeting demands for several years until new lines and power plants can be brought on line.

BPA will be short 2,500 megawatts on Oct. 1 when new power sales contracts take effect. The Administration will be forced at that time-because of low river flows and a lack of hydro-generated electricity-to buy on the open wholesale market where prices have jumped from $25 per megawatt to $300 in just one year.

Recommended actions include reducing needs of publicly owned utilities by 5-10 percent; getting the same commitment from investor-owned utilities; asking aluminum plants to discontinue operations for at least two years until enough power can be provided, and making continued pleas to citizens to conserve energy.