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Analysis Shows Columbia Generating Station’s Value to Region

John Dobken, Public Affairs, 509-377-8369

Anna Markham, Public Affairs, 509-377-8162

RICHLAND, Wash. – Energy Northwest recently received an analysis released by the Public Power Council, based in Portland, Ore., that concludes the Columbia Generating Station nuclear energy facility saves electricity customers $271 million a year compared to replacement costs by a utility scale solar resource. The analysis contradicts a widely reported study pushed by an anti-nuclear energy group earlier this year.


In February, McCullough Research published a 48-page study that claimed closing Columbia and replacing it with wind and solar resources would save Northwest electricity customers between $261.2 million and $530.7 million through June 2026. Physicians for Social Responsibility, an anti-nuclear energy activist group, circulated the report to the news media.

The PPC reviewed the McCu
llough Research report in detail and found several flaws with its methodology, including use of levelized cost of electricity numbers that are “wildly inconsistent” with LCOE numbers found in the region by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.


The PPC wrote, “…the McCullough report’s recommendation actually would lead to a cost of $271 million annually and would adversely affect regional power supply adequacy.”


The PPC based its analysis on information from the NWPCC’s Seventh Northwest Power Plan​ and Bonneville Power Administration rate information. Using those regional sources, the most likely renewable replacement for Columbia would be a utility scale solar installation in Idaho with a cost per megawatt-hour of electricity of $78.84, which includes the cost of power, balancing service charges and BPA’s Resource Support Services (see PPC document attached for further information). Comparable costs for Columbia are $48.50 per MWh, according to the PPC.


“It’s unfortunate that such a poorly researched, anti-nuclear energy report garnered extensive media coverage,” said Brent Ridge, EN vice president and chief financial officer. “Columbia’s carbon-free nuclear energy is a great value to region. Our commitment is to continue increasing that value through its lifecycle.”

Columbia’s recent performance

Columbia Generating Station produced more electricity for the Northwest power grid during 2016, 9.6 million megawatt-hours, than any other year in its 32-year history, beating the previous generation record set in 2014 (9.5 million MWhrs).

Columbia has set generation records four out of the last five years.

Columbia’s electricity output has been steadily increasing over the past five years in part due to work performed during the plant’s biennial refueling and maintenance outages, work that has added roughly 40 megawatts to its capacity since 2011. Columbia now has an output of 1,190 megawatts (gross) while operating at a capacity factor above 93 percent since 2012. Columbia will shut down for its next refueling and maintenance outage May 13.

Columbia Generating Station is the third largest generator of electricity in Washington state. All of its electricity is sold at-cost to BPA. Columbia represents about 12 percent of BPA’s firm energy and 9.5 percent of Bonneville’s sustained peak capacity. Ninety-two Northwest utilities receive a percentage of its output.

Last month, the Northwest Public Power Association awarded EN first place for safety performance. In December, the state’s chamber of commerce, the Association of Washington Business, named EN its 2016 Employer of the Year.

About Energy Northwest
Energy Northwest develops, owns and operates a diverse mix of electricity generating resources, including hydro, solar and wind projects – and the Northwest’s only nuclear energy facility. These projects provide enough reliable, affordable and environmentally respon­sible energy to power more than a million homes each year, and that carbon-free electricity is provided at the cost of generation. As a Washington state, joint action agency, Energy Northwest comprises 27 public power member utilities from across the state serving more than 1.5 million ratepayers. The agency continually explores new generation projects to meet its members’ needs.

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