September 3, 2020

Wind Power Development Questioned

Benton PUD Commissioners support transition from coal to nuclear power
Benton PUD commissioners recently approved Wind Power and Clean Energy Policy Perspectives, a report intended to provide a utility view of the impacts of the state’s clean energy policies and to raise concerns about environmental and economic tradeoffs of all electrical energy technologies.  The report was adopted in response to Resolution 2523, which was adopted by the commission in November 2019, in support of ensuring electric sector resource adequacy in the Pacific Northwest.
Our goal in adopting this report was to raise awareness regarding power-generation resource adequacy concerns as well as the environmental and land use impacts associated with wind project development.  We saw the effects of a broken resource adequacy program in California with recent rolling blackouts.  Regulators were warned of reliability issues in August of 2019 by the President/CEO of the California Independent system Operator Corporation (CAISO) – the grid operator - and they did not take the actions necessary to mitigate California’s over dependence on solar and wind power. 
We are continuing to sound the alarm regarding the unacceptably high risk of power grid blackouts in the Pacific Northwest being precipitated by overly aggressive clean energy policies and deepening dependence on wind power to replace retiring coal plants.  Benton PUD is calling on Governor Inslee and our state legislators to learn from California’s experience and to believe what utilities in Washington State are telling them.  Rolling blackouts jeopardize the health, safety and well-being of all citizens  and cannot be accepted in a region that, thanks to hydropower, is the envy of the nation when it comes to clean and low-cost electricity.

Our report provides Benton PUD’s perspective on why we do not support further wind power development in the Northwest.  Benton PUD Commissioners believe that large-scale wind farm development in the Northwest will:
  1. Contribute very little to keeping the regional power grid reliable and will not help Benton PUD solve our seasonal energy deficit problems;
  2. Contribute to the devaluation of hydro-generation assets and put upward pressure on retail rates Benton PUD and other utilities charge our customers;
  3. Risk underinvestment in needed dispatchable capacity today and future investments in visionary advancements in nuclear energy technology;
  4. Further sacrifice scenic hillsides, canyons and desert vistas in our region for little if any net environmental benefit.
Benton PUD commissioners believe the best long-term, sustainable and environmentally responsible strategy to meet the state clean energy goals is to keep existing hydropower in place and move from coal power to natural gas and natural gas to nuclear.

We encourage you to read the report to gain a better understanding of our commission’s perspective on wind power in the Northwest.  Wind Power and Clean Energy Policy Perspectives can be found here.