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New Study Shows Washington Can Achieve a Clean Energy Future

Jason Herbert, Public Affairs, 509-372-5205
Carla Martinez, Public Affairs, 509-308-0457
RICHLAND, Wash. – More and different electricity sources will be needed in the Northwest to maintain energy reliability and achieve a carbon-free system by 2045, according to a new study released today by Energy Northwest. The study was prepared by Energy + Environmental Economics (E3), a San Francisco-based consulting group, which calculated energy capacity needs in the northwest over the next several decades and analyzed a suite of clean, reliable and affordable energy resources available to meet that demand.

Energy Northwest commissioned the study as part of a comprehensive, multi-year effort to evaluate all carbon-free options that can maintain system reliability while ensuring Washingtonians have enough power through the next twenty years and beyond.

“The motivation for this study is Governor Inslee’s Clean Energy Transformation Act, which set our state on a path to 100% clean electricity by 2045,” said Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest chief executive officer. “That’s an ambitious and worthwhile goal, so we have to start planning today to ensure the people of Washington state have the right mix of energy sources tomorrow. And it’s our job to make sure that mix is not only reliable, but affordable.”

Energy Northwest is a not-for-profit utility agency created by the state legislature in 1957 to aggregate and help meet the needs of public power utilities, including providing solutions to regional energy challenges. It is comprised of 27 public utilities districts and municipalities across Washington. Energy Northwest operates one of the largest carbon-free energy portfolios in the region, which includes wind, hydroelectric, and solar power facilities, as well as Columbia Generating Station, the state’s third-largest producer of electricity.

The optimal future energy picture, according to E3, is a combination of current and new renewable and clean resources. E3’s study utilized published conservation and efficiency projections and costs, and examined the value of creating additional solar and wind facilities, as well as extending operation of the Columbia Generating Station power plant beyond its current anticipated decommission date of 2043. The study also explored whether Washington’s expanding population and growing energy needs can be met in part by new innovations, such as small modular nuclear reactors, a technology that is carbon-free and provides an ideal mix of reliability, capacity and seamless integration with renewables.

“Completing this study is simply the first step in a much larger decision-making process,” said Sawatzke. “Any decision to invest in new resources will take time, and will only be done in the best interest of our member utilities, the people of Washington and, of course, the environment.”

Highlights and key findings from the study are available below.
To read the full study, click here​.
E3 Executive Summary Highlights:
“A key finding of this analysis is that achieving even very deep electric emissions reductions in the region can be accomplished at manageable costs, provided firm capacity is available. However, the costs of achieving 100% GHG [greenhouse gas] reductions exhibit a marked increase when new firm capacity cannot be built in the region.” 

“CGS is relicensed in all the resource and emissions target scenarios in which it is available. The value of CGS stems from its ability to provide both energy and firm capacity without emitting carbon. The value of CGS ranges from $75 million per year in the 80% GHG reduction scenario to $1.35 billion in the 100% GHG reduction scenario.”

“The role of SMRs in the Northwest's future electricity system depends on their cost, the stringency of regional emissions limits and the availability of gas generators to provide firm capacity.

• Production Tax Credit: When a nuclear PTC is available, SMRs are selected in all emissions reduction scenarios and are built earlier, with the first units coming online in 2040.

• No New Gas: SMRs have their largest build out in cases where gas generators—powered by either natural gas or biomethane—cannot be built. In these cases, the first SMRs are built by 2030, with at least 6.3 GW [gigawatts] of SMRs built by 2045.

• 100% GHG Reduction: At NuScale costs, SMRs reduce the cost of achieving a 100% electric sector GHG reduction by nearly $8 billion per year). That value stems from those resources’ ability to provide firm capacity, thereby avoiding a large overbuild of renewables.”

“If zero-GHG firm resources—including CGS, SMRs and biomethane—are available then the services provided by gas generators can be replaced at reasonable cost.”

“CGS is relicensed in all scenarios while zero-emitting firm resources like SMRs are most valuable under very tight emissions reductions regimes. In those cases, zero-emitting firm resources provide important reliability services that reduce the cost of achieving deep emissions reductions relative to scenarios that only rely on renewables and storage. SMRs have their largest role when new gas generators cannot be built or when they are able to receive a nuclear production tax credit. In those cases, SMRs are built in all emissions reduction scenarios.”
Click here to read the E3 study executive summary.
About Energy Northwest                
Energy Northwest owns and operates a diverse mix of 100 percent 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 action 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.
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