Electricity is cheap here and will remain so

Of the things we need to worry about in the Pacific Northwest, the cost of electricity isn’t one of them. We are ground zero for the deregulation of wholesale electricity prices and our region enjoys the lowest in the country.

Of course, our electric bills could be even lower. Oregon’s renewable portfolio standards have imposed nontrivial costs on ratepayers, but our power prices still remain lower than other states that lack such misguided policies.

Something remarkable happened in British Columbia this week that will help guarantee an oversupply of electricity into our grid. The Horgan government approved completion of the Site C dam on the Peace River. This is probably the biggest economic development that will affect the Oregon economy that you’ve likely never heard of.  

At more than $10 billion dollars, this mega project is actually a boondoggle for British Columbia. Our northern neighbors are spending way too much money to build more power than they actually need. The plan is to pay for this project by exporting the electricity to the United States until the BC economy actually needs this additional 5,100 gigawatt hours of voltage a year.

Their overestimation of our future grid’s prices in what’s called the Mid-Columbia market means BC Hydro will be selling at a loss, forcing BC ratepayers to make up the difference as they put further downward pressure on our energy costs. This will be bad for British Columbians, but it will be a blessing for Oregon industry and households.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change

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  • Bob Clark

    The graph shows about $25 per MWH or so. This equates to 2.5 cents per KWH. This is wholesale power, and PGE charges us retail for pure power before distribution about 10 cents per KWH. PGE has a slate of its own power plants which are not so cheap as hydro power. (I also note the taxpayer is paying a significant amount for the wind turbines lining places like end of the Columbia River Gorge; and so, rate payers are not seeing the true cost of the glut of renewable power making its way into their homes and businesses. Also, Northwest power users also benefit hugely because of California’s willingness to build renewable power sources, even as their rates are 20 cents or more per KWH retail if memory serves me correct.)
    To get this new increment of power down from BC might need an expansion of the Northern Inter Tie between Washington and BC. Is this 5,100 Gigawatthours average hourly delivery, or capacity to deliver at dam nameplate capacity? If I divide 365 days in a year into 5,100 GWH, I get nearly 14,000 average Megawatts. I doubt this is what is meant.
    Peace River maybe could be stored so as to allow it to empty and produce its power during the late summer and fall when the Columbia River dams are ebbing in producing power in a normal water year. Maybe this new dam could act like a low cost battery. Where it produces power when the wind ain’t blowing and the sun not shining. And it backs off running water and power, when the wind is blowing and the sun glows that wonderful warm yellow.

    • Bob Clark

      I forgot to divide the 5,100 GWH by also 24 hours in a day. So, the average Megawatts is more realistic at just under 600 aMW. About equivalent to two natural gas fired generating plants (combined cycle turbines…one jet engine with its exhaust stream going to produce steam for yet a steam turbine too).

  • 这样的博客让人禁不住一天来几次!