Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Temperatures Plunge in Western Washington State (KIRO Broadcasting, Seattle, WA)

Vermont’s Sole Nuclear Power Plant Ends Operations - Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant ends operations after 42 years of producing electricity (Associated Press)

Up in Smoke: WA Pot Firms Say Their Profits Are Getting Burned Down by Tax Bills (Crosscut Seattle)

Alaska: Commercial Fishing Threatens Endangered Sea Lions, Groups Say (Courthouse News Service)

Is Microsoft About to Put Internet Explorer Out of Its Misery? (Puget Sound Business Journal, WA)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mountain Snow Could Slow Christmas Eve Travel (KIRO Broadcasting, Seattle, WA)

Portland LED Specialist Lands another $1 Million in Investments (Portland Business Journal, OR)

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark Defends Peace River Dam as a 100-Year Plan (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Peace River Dam Approval Leaves Two Northern British Columbia Wind Projects Up in the Air (Business Vancouver, BC)

Portland LED Specialist Lands another $1 Million in Investments (Portland Business Journal, OR)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lawsuits Could ‘Destroy’ Recreational Cannabis in Washington State (Marijuana Business Daily)

Businesses: Carbon Tax Would Impact Citizens (KING-TV, Seattle, WA)

Chinook Salmon at Risk of Catastrophe Due to Climate Change, UBC Researcher Warns (The Province, Vancouver, BC)

Lawsuit against U-S Army Corps of Engineers Complicates Oregon Liquefied Natural Gas Plans in Warrenton (Oregonian, Portland)

Storms Bring Massive Amounts of Elwha River Sediment Downstream (Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, WA)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Governor Inslee’s Cap-And-Trade Plan for Carbon Emitters Could Hit 130 Enterprises (News Tribune, Tacoma, WA - Paywall Advisory)

Olympic Mountain Snowpack 23 Percent of Normal - Too Soon to Worry about 2015 Water Supply, Officials Say (Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, WA)

Draft Plan Unveiled for Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line (Boise Weekly, ID)

Wind Farm Operator PacifiCorp Energy Pleads Guilty in Bird Deaths at Wind Farms in Wyoming (U-S News & World Report)

Oregon, Washington Seek to Juice Electric Car Sales with More Incentives (Northwest Public Radio)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Simpson Selling Sawmills to Canadian Forest Products Company – “…does not include…sawmill in Shelton…the Shelton sawmill didn’t fit in Interfor’s strategic plan to increase its U-S production….” (News Tribune, Tacoma, WA - Paywall Advisory)

Two States Sue to Block Colorado Marijuana Markets (SCOTUS Blog)

Editorial: Nuclear Energy Deserves Debate (Vancouver Columbian, WA)

2015 Looks Grim for Wind Energy. How Will the Industry Adapt? (Utility Dive)

Court Fight Puts Idaho's School Broadband in Jeopardy (Idaho Statesman, Boise)

Lewis County PUD Approves Larger Budget for 2015 (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(CHEHALIS, WA) -- The Lewis County PUD Commissioners approved a budget of $71.2 million for 2015.  That’s an increase of 7.1 percent over 2014.  PUD manager Bob Geddes says there are several factors affecting the increase including a raise in power and transmission costs from the Bonneville Power Administration. PUD receives a large portion of its electricity from BPA.  Geddes says they have also opted to add an additional tree trimming crew to supplement the existing one tree trimming crew in an effort to stay ahead of outages caused by storms like the ones recently experienced in Lewis County. 

Cantwell Picks National Labs Advisor as Energy & Natural Resources Staff Director (Politico)

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Incoming Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Maria Cantwell has picked Angela Becker-Dippmann, a former ENR and Cantwell aide, as Democratic staff director for the next Congress. Becker-Dippmann is currently a senior policy advisor at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Energy and Environment Directorate, where she has been since 2011. Becker-Dippmann was an executive vice president at McBee Strategic Consulting from 2008 until joining PNNL, and before that spent eight years in the Senate, including stints as a staffer under former ENR Chairman Jeff Bingaman and as policy director to Cantwell, where she worked on the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

British Columbia Expected to Make Peace River Dam Site Announcement Tuesday in Victoria (Vancouver Sun, BC)

Betting on the Need, Scientists Work on Lighter, Cleaner Nuclear Energy (NY Times)

Clallam Sheriff’s Office Looking for Suspect with Burns after Copper Theft – Caused Power Outage West of Port Angeles (Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, WA)

Portland General Electric’s Washington Wind Farm Brings Its Energy to Portland (Portland Business Journal, OR)

Study: Your All-Electric Car May Not Be So Green (Associated Press)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Powerful Wind Storm Knocks Out Power to Thousands in Puget Sound Region (KIRO Broadcasting, Seattle, WA)

Pacific Northwest’s Regional Hydropower Potential Is Lower than Federal Estimate (Northwest Power and Conservation Council)

Biologists Optimistic about Columbia River’s Spring Chinook Run (Vancouver Columbian, WA)

Crooked River: Central Oregon Water Dispute Settled in Bill That Wins Last-Minute Congressional Passage (Oregonian, Portland)

Many Tribes Not Eager to Grow & Sell Pot, Despite U-S Justice Department Saying They Can (Associated Press)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

High Winds Could Bring 70 Mph Gusts to Puget Sound Region (KIRO Broadcasting, Seattle, WA)

Wanapum Dam Stable after Reservoir Hits Elevation Target (Seattle Times, WA - Paywall Advisory)

Google Fiber Could Be Snared by Thorny Oregon Tax Law (Oregonian, Portland)

Nippon Mill’s $85 Million Cogeneration Plant in Port Angeles Is Operating - But Not Fully (Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, WA)

Legal Marijuana Sales in Spokane County Top $1 Million Last Month (Spokesman Review, Spokane, WA)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Three Storms, Three Threats: Flooding, Strong Winds, Landslides (KOMO-TV, Seattle, WA)

The Great Salmon Compromise - The Columbia Basin Fish Accords have funded $1 billion worth of habitat restoration projects, but can they replace free-flowing rivers? (High Country News)

Idaho Power Turns to Cloud Seeding to Boost Snowpack (Spokesman Review, Spokane, WA)

What’s Up with My Heat Pump? - Powerful Advice: Energy Insights from PUD 3 (Mason PUD 3, Shelton, WA)

The Cost of Carbon: Tax Would Be ‘A Small Drag’ on Oregon Economy (Portland Business Journal, OR)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Power Savings of Smart Meters Prove Slow to Materialize (NY Times)

Rate Hikes Loom for Northwest Utilities (Electric Co-op Today)

Pot Grows Prompt New Power Questions (Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, WA – Paywall Advisory)

Activists, Inslee Want Eight Times More Wind Power in Washington State by 2030 (KPLU Radio, Tacoma, WA)

Cap & Trade Could Be the Answer to State Budget Crises “…cutting emissions in one state will have no perceptible effect on…climate change. So, for policy options within your own state, it’s about the money…” (The Conversation)

Pot Grows Prompt New Power Questions (Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, WA)

The Kitsap Sun, Tad Sooter
December 6, 2014

SHELTON — Mason County is a good place to grow legal marijuana.

It’s a rural county with relatively quick access to highways and nearby cities. The scattered population makes it easier for growers to find locations outside the buffered areas established by the state around schools, libraries and other gathering places.

And, perhaps most important for a power-thirsty industry, electricity is cheap.

“That’s why we came to Mason County, the rate was so low,” said Craig Johnson, co-owner of Cascade Crops, who spends about $2,200 a month to run grow lights and other equipment in his Shelton marijuana production facility.

Those rates changed at the start of this month.

The Mason County Public Utility District 3 commission approved a new price schedule for its electricity customers in November that included a special classification for marijuana growers and processors. The rate falls between that of small businesses and large commercial users. It includes a demand charge that reflects the peak capacity needs of the facilities.

According to the district, the classification will protect marijuana businesses if federal regulations change, and ensure the companies’ power needs are met. But some growers, including Johnson, feel singled out.

“We took it as them pushing us against the wall as marijuana businesses,” Johnson said.

The uncertainty over federal policy regarding Washington’s fledgling marijuana industry was one driver behind the new rate classification. Recreational pot was legalized in the state under Initiative 502 but it remains federally illegal.

Utility districts across the state took notice last spring when the Bureau of Reclamation announced it didn’t want federally controlled irrigation water supplied to marijuana businesses. Like many districts, Mason County PUD 3 buys and distributes wholesale electricity from Bonneville Power Authority, a federal agency. To date, Bonneville hasn’t offered clear direction on whether districts should be reselling its wholesale electricity to marijuana companies.

PUD 3 Manager Annette Creekpaum said the district will supply Bonneville power to growers for now, but there is possibility that source could be eliminated in the future. By creating a special class for marijuana businesses, the district can shift them to other power sources if needed, without affecting other customers, she said.

Creekpaum said it seems unlikely Bonneville would prohibit the resale of electricity to pot growers, but “you just don’t know politically.”

There are other good reasons for giving marijuana growers there own customer class, according to district administrators. Isolating power loads from the growing facilities allows the district to study their energy use and ensure the infrastructure is in place to meet it. Indoor marijuana growing is a power-intensive operation, requiring large overhead lights, and powerful ventilation and filtration systems.

Power needs in Mason County could surge as growers come online. The Liquor Control Board has approved 10 producers there to date and another 40 are awaiting approval.

“Many aren’t big businesses yet but they have plans for being big,” Creekpaum said. “We’re planning for the future and preparing to meet that big power load.”

The rate for pot businesses also reflects a higher cost of electricity. The cheapest block of Bonneville power allocated to the district is being utilized by existing customers. Kitsap PUD (sic) is negotiating a new block to service marijuana businesses and other new customers, but it will be more expensive, Creekpaum said.

According to news reports, other Washington utility districts wrestled this year with how to accommodate marijuana businesses given the ambiguity from Bonneville.

The issue isn’t pressing in Kitsap County, where power is supplied by Puget Sound Energy. PSE draws electricity from a wide variety of sources, including its own plants. Spokesman Ray Lane said PSE is serving legal marijuana businesses and is confident it can accommodate their power needs.

“PSE has a duty and obligation to serve customers under Washington state law,” Lane said in a provided statement. “If there’s a legal business in our service territory that needs our services, we welcome them as a customer.”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Proposed Bonneville Power Administration Rate Increase Will Maintain Value of Power & Transmission Systems (Bonneville Power Administration)

(PORTLAND, OR) -- To keep pace with needed investments in the Federal Columbia River Power System, which provides carbon-free hydropower at cost to Northwest public utilities, the Bonneville Power Administration today proposed a 6.7 percent average wholesale power rate increase for the fiscal year 2016-2017 rate period. BPA is also proposing a 5.6 percent increase in its transmission rates to sustain and expand the federal transmission system to meet regional needs, including renewable resource integration.

“During my time at BPA, I have become acutely aware of the economic impact our rates have on Northwest public utilities and the communities they serve,” said Elliot Mainzer, BPA administrator and chief executive officer. “However, these rate increases are necessary to sustain the tremendous value of the federal power and transmission system and to meet the electricity needs of the Northwest in a reliable and environmentally sustainable way.”

In January, BPA began a discussion with the region about its proposed program levels, future costs and potential rates for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. At the outset of those discussions, BPA forecast double-digit increases for both its power and transmission rates. Over the next nine months, BPA conducted extensive public review of its programs and budgets in a regional process called the Integrated Program Review.

The IPR process allows interested parties to see all relevant FCRPS spending level estimates in the same forum. The IPR occurs every two years, just before each rate case, providing participants with an opportunity to review and comment on BPA’s program level estimates before spending levels are set for inclusion in the rate case. Program levels for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 were included in the Final IPR Close-out Report released in October of this year.

“Working closely with our customers and other regional stakeholders over the past nine months, we managed to significantly cut the forecasted rate increases,” added Mainzer.

The rate proposals will be considered during a public rate-setting process beginning in early December and culminating in July 2015 decisions on final rates to take effect Oct. 1, 2015.

BPA is a nonprofit federal wholesale utility that receives no Congressional appropriations and must recover its costs through its rates. The new rates will affect local retail utilities differently depending on the amount of power and type of services they purchase from BPA. Local utilities ultimately determine the retail impact of BPA rates on individual businesses and residents.

Power rates
Even though power-related program level increases were kept below the rate of inflation, factors besides inflation make the wholesale power rate increase necessary. About 5 percentage points of the proposed 6.7 percent increase is due to costs associated with past capital spending – an increase of about $94 million a year.
Also contributing to the rate increase are increases in operating and maintenance costs for the federal hydroelectric program ($34 million), an automatic cost escalation under the long-term 2012 Residential Exchange Program settlement ($18 million per year), the need to acquire transmission service to meet obligations to deliver power to customers who are not directly connected to BPA’s transmission system ($12 million per year) and rising fish and wildlife costs.

To offset a portion of these increases, BPA has been able to take advantage of unique opportunities, including: the repeal of the spent-fuel disposal fee that the U.S. Department of Energy charged Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station, saving an average of $7.4 million a year; a reduction in BPA’s forecast for the joint-funded Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance budget, saving about $2.5 million a year; refinancing of Energy Northwest regional cooperation debt for 2014-17, saving about $29 million a year; a decrease in operating costs at the Columbia Generating Station, saving approximately $26 million a year; and a $20 million undistributed reduction in the power revenue requirement.

Transmission rates
Additional reviews of transmission programs presented in the IPR confirmed that BPA has reduced programs levels as much as possible while still being certain it can meet the needs of the region. Factors contributing to the rate increase include the need to sustain and expand an aging Federal Columbia River Transmission System to maintain reliability and continue the integration of renewable resources, such as wind; increased mandatory compliance and additional cyber and physical security requirements and other operational and maintenance expenses; and the purchase of property insurance for BPA transmission facilities other than transmission lines and towers.

Earlier this fall, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved BPA’s Oversupply Management Protocol, a tool to manage the occasional seasonal oversupply of electricity generation, as well as an associated rate through fiscal year 2015. BPA is proposing to continue the oversupply rate for two more years using the same cost-allocation methodology and rate design.

Partial Ancillary and Control Area Services settlement
In September 2014, parties to the BP-16 rate case reached a settlement on the cost of generation inputs and transmission rates for ancillary and control area services, which include balancing for variable generators. The settlement agreement included in today’s Initial Proposal is posted on the BPA website. Most of the settled rates were kept at the same level as current rates, with a slight increase for Operating Reserves. The settlement will go through the rate case process. BPA staff will propose that the BPA administrator adopt the settlement in his record of decision in July 2015.

The settlement includes use of innovative tools BPA and its customers have created to integrate new resources into BPA’s system. The agreement is made possible due to advances in BPA’s ability to obtain third-party balancing resources. Given this progress  and work being done in market design, the settlement gives BPA time to allow these efforts to mature and become long-term, sustainable solutions for the integration of new resources into BPA’s transmission system. The settlement did not address two ancillary services, Scheduling System Control and Dispatch Service and Reactive Supply and Voltage Control from Generation Sources Services.

In October, BPA also began offering its transmission customers the opportunity to schedule energy in 15-minute increments. By offering 15-minute scheduling, BPA has removed barriers to integrating variable energy resources, as provided for in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order 764. In the upcoming rate period, Variable Energy Resource Balancing Service customers (principally wind) can enjoy a saving of up to 50 percent from their current rate if they commit to schedule every 15 minutes. In addition, BPA believes that 15-minute scheduling could significantly reduce its balancing reserve capacity requirements.