CEO’s Message – October 2022

Now... the fight for what has been won

scott peters headshotAs many of you know, in late August, Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray issued a 6-page “Findings and Recommendations” document in response to the recently published Lower Snake River Dams Benefit Replacement Report.

In short, the recommendations stated that before we seriously consider breaching the dams, we must find a way to replace the energy provided by the dams. And right now, existing carbon-free energy resources cannot come close to replacing the clean, steady supply of hydropower provided by the four Lower Snake River Dams. Breaching the dams now, or even in a short-term scenario, would be “not responsible or feasible” and economically “disastrous.”

What might feel like a “victory” on some level for our region is really a call-to-arms for the next phase of the transition to a clean energy future. Yes, our rates will hold steady and not spike like they are, and will continue to, in many other parts of the country as coal and gas plants are taken offline and electricity supply falls short of demand and drives prices up—or worse—leads to blackouts. But we must still maintain our focus on the future. The Washington State Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) requires all utilities to generate 100% of their electricity from renewable or carbon-free sources by the year 2045.

Which means we must continue to support research and development in the effort to diversify our baseload (that 24/7/365 minimum requirement needed to keep everyone’s lights on) with clean energy alternatives. Solar and wind are excellent supplemental energy resources, but currently, the only viable carbon-free baseload alternative that could conceivably replace all fossil fuels is nuclear energy.

Columbia REA is working with NRU Power Services and five other Washington utilities to investigate the NuScale Carbon Free Power Project, whose goal is to scale up nuclear energy production through the development of SMRs, or Small Modular Reactors. These SMRs are slated to go online in Idaho and begin supplying carbon-free electricity throughout the west in 2029.

The Lower Snake River Dam discussion is not over. This is just the end of the latest round in a decades-long, and increasingly important, heavyweight bout. Someday, probably sooner than later, the bell will chime and the contestants will enter the ring again. While hydropower is safe for now, we must still prioritize the development of new affordable, renewable energy resources so that the Pacific Northwest can maintain its position as a leader in clean, reliable power.


Scott Peters