On January 10th, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) led members of the Northwest Congressional delegation in a letter to Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) Administrator Steve Wright and Northwest Power Planning Council Chairman Larry Cassidy in support of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The letter attracted the support of all 11 members of the Washington state delegation as well as four other Northwest lawmakers - Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, and Oregon Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, and Darlene Hooley.  It encourages the development of alternative energy sources throughout the 2006-2026 contract period currently being discussed by BPA and the utilities.

“Our country's energy policy is vitally important to our economy, our environment and our national security,” said Smith. “I strongly believe we need to make an aggressive effort to develop and implement energy technologies of the future that will allow us to wean our dependency on fossil fuels.  As we move through the contract process with BPA and the utilities over the coming months, I am hopeful we can take advantage of renewable energy and energy efficiency resources to make a difference in the quality of life in the Northwest, help grow our economy and protect our environment.” 

The full text of the letter follows.  

“We write regarding the Northwest Power Planning Council's Recommendations on the Bonneville Power Administration's role in regional energy supply after 2006. As you know, we are encouraged by the efforts of a number of BPA customer representatives to reach consensus on the many thorny issues this topic raises. In addition, we hope that as BPA begins to formulate its own post-2006 proposal, you will keep in mind a number of our key concerns.

“We have closely followed the progress of discussions aimed at locking up for 20 years the benefits of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) in a manner that will benefit all sectors of the Northwest economy, including residential, commercial and industrial consumers. We must ensure that any such contractual arrangements are legally and practically sustainable across variable market conditions, and will not result in harmful or unintended consequences for Northwest utilities, industries and ratepayers. Temporary solutions that are not durable across a range of circumstances will only serve to undermine the very same certainty this dialogue was designed to provide for the Northwest energy industry and its customers.

“Without prejudging the benefits of allowing certain entities to assume responsibility for meeting their own load growth, we also believe that any changes in BPA's relationship to its traditional customers must not jeopardize the region's ability to fulfill its long-standing stewardship obligations. These include investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy development, low-income energy services and fish and wildlife protection and restoration. It is important that any such modification meet legal obligations to recover endangered salmon and retain the ability to fully implement the salmon recovery plan, and possible future modifications to the Plan.

“The Northwest's economic and environmental future depends on development and deployment of clean energy technologies, diversifying our resource base and capturing all the benefits that result from making our energy system as efficient as possible. Investment in these areas will not only help meet the growing demand for electricity in our region and take pressure off the FCRPS, but it is a key to job creation within the Northwest's burgeoning energy technology and renewable energy industries. 

“We believe that BPA must continue in its role as an engine for innovation and economic development when it comes to investment in cost-effective efficiency and renewable energy. A sustained region-wide commitment to these initiatives will ultimately improve reliability, lower costs to consumers, provide cleaner air to the public and enhance our environmental quality, while simultaneously positioning the Northwest for economic growth.

“As you continue in the effort to preserve and enhance the benefits of the FCRPS, a meaningful public participation process must also be a critical component of your work. Citizens of the Northwest should be apprised of what's at stake and fully included as BPA, the Council and other stakeholders endeavor to make critical decisions about the future of our energy system."