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Columbia’s record generation keeping the region cool


Kelly Rae, Public Affairs, 509-372-5376                                                                       
Carla Martinez, Public Affairs, 509-372-5156                                                                                      


RICHLAND, Wash. – Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station is keeping the region cool as temperatures heat up again this week. 

The station, which produced nearly 9.6 million megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity during its last fiscal year, and recorded its third-highest generation record, also demonstrated its flexibility. Earlier this summer, the Bonneville Power Administration asked EN to reduce power generation for several days for economic supply and demand management. 

That changed last month however, when BPA requested a “no touch” order for Columbia for nine consecutive days, and again this month. Bonneville, which markets the electricity produced at Columbia, asked for the restriction due to an increased demand for electricity due to high temperatures. The order limits any maintenance activity that would either require a reduction in power or pose a risk to sustaining 100% generation.

“When we have these extreme temperatures, the region relies on the full-time capacity that nuclear energy has to offer,” said CEO Brad Sawatzke. “Nuclear has the advantage when it comes to being available 24/7, and our ability to load follow, when needed, provides not only the best cost-effective strategy, but also grid stability.”  

A “no touch” order is occasionally requested by BPA when unusually hot or cold weather increases demand for electricity. 

Energy Northwest and BPA have worked together for years to manage power supply for grid reliability, and are now working under a new agreement that offers more options for increasing or decreasing Columbia’s power generation. The agreement improves communications between the two agencies and outlines quicker load-shaping capabilities. 

“We would be hard pressed to find another resource right now that is carbon free and provides the same amount of power and reliability as Columbia Generating Station. Now Columbia is significantly increasing the flexibility to respond to a changing system as well,” said Kieran Connolly, BPA’s vice president of Generating Asset Management. “It’s a tremendously valuable asset for the Pacific Northwest.”  

Washington state leads the nation in electricity generation from renewable resources, according to the Energy Information Administration. Columbia’s flexible operations and ability to reduce generation make it a valuable asset for integrating with the state’s renewable resources.  

Columbia has the capability to produce 1,207 megawatts, which is enough electricity to power about a million households, or a city the size of Seattle and much of its metro area. It is the third largest electricity generator in the state.

“With economic dispatch included, we produced more than 10 million megawatt-hours for the first time in a fiscal year, which is an incredible accomplishment by our team,” Sawatzke said. 


About Energy Northwest                                                                                                    

Energy Northwest owns and operates a diverse mix of 100% clean electricity generating resources: hydro, solar and wind projects, and the third-largest provider of electricity in Washington – the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power facility. These projects provide carbon-free electricity at the cost of generation – enough clean, cost-effective and reliable energy to power more than a million homes each year. As an independent joint operating agency of Washington state, Energy Northwest comprises 27 public power member utilities from across the state serving more than 1.5 million customers. The agency continually explores new generation projects to meet its members’ needs. Visit our website for more information about us. 

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