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Piece ignores hurdles in developing new capacity

Published on January 7, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on February 4, 2011 8:19AM

Don Coats

Coats Don Coats


For the Capital Press

Carl Sampson's attack on the Legislature and renewables is what I would expect from Lars Larson, not an informed journalist.

All Pacific Northwest utilities are faced with procuring new sources of generation as the inexpensive Tier One Bonneville Power Administration power is depleted and their loads grow.

Any new source of power will cost a lot more. It would cost more if it came from coal or nuclear or new hydro or gas or wind or solar. The Oregon Renewable Portfolio Standard will allow the utilities to opt out of the renewable requirement if the renewable sources cost significantly more than other available sources. The uncertainty of the cost and regulation of coal and nuclear and the extreme volatility of natural gas prices make wind, with zero fuel cost, an attractive source for a portion of many large utilities' portfolios. As utility loads grow, new generation will be necessary and it will cost significantly more than what we are used to.

Carl's statement that the Oregon Legislature excluded hydro power from the definition of Renewable Energy is very misleading; however, it makes a good sound bite for those that dismiss the value of renewables.

The goal of the Renewable Portfolio Standard was to encourage the use of renewables when a utility needed new generation. Most utilities of the Pacific Northwest currently have 50 to 100 percent of their power coming from our wonderful hydroelectric system. If you are trying to measure what the utilities are doing with new generation sourcing, you have to level the field by drawing a line between old and new generation sources. Thus the old hydro, which is definitely considered renewable by Webster, is not included in the measurement of newly installed renewables. Do you understand, Carl?

Carl's numbers for the subsidies of renewables don't add up. The federal subsidies for wind power are either $.02 per kilowatt-hour produced over a 10-year period or 30 percent of the qualifying capital cost of a new facility. Neither is close to his $1.9 billion number and neither comes close to the subsidies that the coal or petroleum industries have built into their well-established public trough.

Most of BPA's infrastructure is more than 50 years old and cannot accommodate new loads, no matter what kind of generators supply them, thus the new transmission lines.

I don't like high-priced electricity, but let's not blame it on the wrong thing. The wind industry has provided a new lease on life for a number of counties in both Oregon and Washington. The hydroelectric system was a huge cost to the public as it was installed along the Columbia River but resulted in a robust economy for our region for decades. I think the wind industry will look good in retrospect, as well, much to Lars' and Carl's chagrin.

Don Coats of The Dalles, Ore., is a fourth generation Sherman County wheat grower, past president of the Oregon Wheat Growers League and presently serves on the Community Renewable Energy Association executive board.


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