Regional Value

Energy Northwest Bonneville

Columbia Generating Station has a key role in meeting regional capacity demand with its dependability for electric energy production as a baseload power source and the role it plays in greenhouse gas abatement.

Columbia also provides a vital risk management contribution toward maintaining the diversity of the region’s generation portfolio.

Value Studies

In 2012, Energy Northwest and the Bonneville Power Administration conducted a study to determine the value of Columbia Generating Station to the region. The agencies studied three scenarios based on (1) the continued operation of Columbia, (2) the temporary shutdown of Columbia’s reactor (a five-year off-line scenario), and (3) the permanent closure of Columbia with replacement by natural gas.

The scenarios yield the following results:

  1. Continuous operation of Columbia: 30-year estimated levelized cost of $47.39/megawatt hour (through operating license expiration in 2043). Levelized costs represent present value of the total cost of future capital and operating costs of the described scenario, converted to equal annual payments and amortized over expected annual generation.
  2. Five-year temporary shutdown/off-grid: Most of Columbia’s costs are fixed and must be paid, regardless of power level. Fixed, combined with replacement power costs, equal a 30-year estimated levelized cost of $53.11/megawatt hour.

    Cost savings to energy consumers by not utilizing this option and instead opting for the continuous operation of Columbia is in excess of $1 billion.

  3. Permanent closure of Columbia with replacement by natural gas: Results in substantial risk exposure to the volatility of natural gas prices. Anticipate a 30-year estimated levelized cost of $59.73/regional megawatt hour at expected price of gas, with no carbon tax.

    Cost savings to energy consumers by not utilizing this option and instead opting for the continuous operation of Columbia is more than $2.5 billion. If carbon costs/taxes are applied, this amount increases to more than $5.4 billion.

Columbia Geerating Station: Economic Assessment Report

In April 2013, Energy Northwest commissioned a third-party study (PDF Format) by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a firm with a 75-year reputation for independent expertise in the fields of energy, economics, market conditions and business risk. IHS CERA came to the same conclusion as the joint BPA-EN study: Columbia Generating Station remains the best value when compared to all practical alternatives for Northwest ratepayers.

In January 2014, the Public Power Council, representing Northwest consumer-owned utilities, examined the CERA market assessment and a competing report and concluded that the continued operation of Columbia “is economically advisable for the region.” The council’s assessment supports public statements by BPA affirming Columbia’s provision of unique, firm, baseload, non-carbon emitting generation with predictable costs for the region’s ratepayers.

Columbia Generating Station is currently a key part of the Northwest regional power system supply portfolio. Columbia provides about nine million power customers with the electricity that they want, when they want it – produced in a reliable, efficient, and environmentally responsible way. Columbia, licensed to operate for another 30 years, remains key to meeting these consumer demands.

Additionally, the closure of Columbia, combined with a volatile replacement such as natural gas, presents other non-tangible threats:

  • Cost burden for power buyers
  • Distorted market-clearing power price
  • Societal costs of rising carbon emissions

​Energy Northwest Op-Eds