A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America caught my attention. The nonprofit and nongovernmental organization affirms the cleanest energy in the country flows through the Bonneville Power Administration’s service region.
CEC benefits from this clean energy because it relies on BPA for nearly all its wholesale electricity and, as a result, can claim a nearly 100% carbon emission-free energy portfolio this year.
When you drive Interstate 84, it is hard to miss BPA’s hydroelectric facilities strung along the Columbia River Gorge. However, BPA’s footprint expands well beyond the river. The federal power marketing administration, created by Congress in 1937, has facilities throughout the Pacific Northwest covering 300,000 square miles, which include Idaho, Oregon, Washingon and portions of five surrounding states. BPA’s 261 substations and more than 15,000 miles of transmission lines deliver nearly 28% of the electric power used in the Northwest.
The value of BPA’s hydroelectric power must not be underestimated, especially as policymakers take steps to adopt aggressive carbon-free emission goals. The 24/7 renewable baseload resource does and will continue to play an expansive role in achieving these ambitious goals as BPA’s hydroelectric power backstops intermittent renewables such as solar and wind. The system also provides flood control and irrigation for agriculture, and supports commerce and industry, including large tech companies that want carbon-free, low-cost power.
While CEC benefits from subscribing to BPA’s clean, renewable energy, it comes at a cost. Every two years since 2010, BPA has increased its wholesale power rates to its utility customers. To try to neutralize these rising costs, Central Electric, along with other Oregon electric cooperatives, makes every effort to work with BPA to keep its power rates competitive and ensure the resources’ long-term economic viability.
Yet to quote the proverb, “No good deed goes unpunished,” there has been a significant push in the legislature to adopt an economywide cap-and-trade bill. When introduced last year, the bill initially exposed Central Electric to nearly $7 million in new costs between 2021 and 2030. As the bill wound its way through the legislative process, CEC successfully had the bill amended to reduce the cost exposure to just more than $2.5 million during the same period.
In my view, imposing additional costs proves unwarranted when CEC has an almost carbon-free portfolio. Nor is it equitable when the two Oregon investor-owned utilities must only provide 50% renewable energy by 2040 and get a 10-year pass on carbon penalties.
When the Oregon State Legislature reconvenes for a short legislative session this month, cap-and-trade legislation will once again take center stage. As deliberations ensue, I encourage policymakers not to punish good actors, such as Central Electric, who have demonstrated a commitment and made the investment to provide clean, renewable and cost-effective energy to its members.