Reliable, affordable, environmentally responsible electric power is essential to Washington state and our nation’s economic well-being. Whether powering business and industry directly, or attracting quality workers to an affordable locale, electric power and economic prosperity are inescapably linked.
Long blessed with cheap, abundant hydropower, the Pacific Northwest’s growing demand for power will impact the economy, the environment and overall quality of life.
Unfortunately no one power generation technology appears ready or able to meet all our power needs as each form has inherent benefits and consequences. Instead we will need an integrated mix of power generation technologies, each bringing their own relative strengths and weaknesses.
Any discussion of power generation ought to begin with an acknowledgement that conservation remains the first, best, fastest, and cheapest way to address the seemingly insatiable appetite for power. The federal government offers loan guarantees for energy efficiency measures but who bears the costs of implementing conservation measures remains an important policy issue.
Conversely, there is broad disagreement regarding how much of a role conservation can play in meeting future demand. The answer becomes important when calculating the need for additional power generation facilities.
Although good arguments can be made that conservation will drive investment in technologies like advanced solar power generation and LED lighting, it seems unlikely that any economy can conserve itself into prosperity.
Whatever strategies and technologies are employed to meet future power requirements, consumers are likely to demand three primary components — reliability, affordability and environmental responsibility. Since no one power generation system is fully capable of meeting all three criteria to everyone’s satisfaction, the discussion becomes one of priorities. How do the criteria stack up: Is cost most important? Should reliability be a given?
How important is protecting the environment?