The Northwest Power and Conservation Council (Council) is an interstate agency established in 1981 between four states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The Council consists of eight members, two from each state, who are appointed by the Governors of those states, and several committees. Every five years the Council releases the Northwest Power Plan (Plan) to outline electricity needs. The process starts with a draft plan, and after public input, the Council members vote on the Final Plan. 

The Plan guides the Bonneville Power Administration’s decisions over the resources that should be used to meet the electricity needs of the customers throughout the northwest region. The region’s utilities, regulatory commissions, and policy-makers can then use the Plan as a stand-alone report with key findings about the energy system of the Northwest and the need for new resources. The Council has recently released a draft Plan for review.

Throughout the development process the Council seeks feedback from various stakeholders. That includes the public, state agencies, and utilities. It considers their opinions and needs before issuing the final versions. The public comment period has just opened up and a virtual hearing was just scheduled for Montana, on Monday, Sept. 27th, from 5 – 7 pm. We are asking you to comment on the draft plan to ensure that Montana receives the best possible outcome.

There are many aspects of the 2021 Plan that we support. The Plan calls for 3,500 MW of new renewable energy in the region by 2027. The Council is right to include more renewable energy than any previous plan because our region has extensive opportunities to develop additional, cost-effective wind, solar, and other renewable resources. The 2021 Plan also, for the first time, considers the impacts of climate change on our electricity system. This will set a new bar for utility planning in the region to meet our energy needs in a changing climate.

However, there are a few aspects of the 2021 Plan that fall short.

One of the most concerning aspects of the 2021 Plan is its failure to call for any energy storage. torage systems charged by renewables are already under development in the region, and continue to make incredible strides every year. It is foolish for the Council to ignore the potential for storage when there have been such rapid advancements throughout the industry.

Another concerning aspect of the plan is its proposals for energy efficiency. The 2021 Plan decreases the role of energy efficiency in the region for the next 5 years. The 2021 Plan adopts a much lower regional target for energy efficiency (750-1000 MW compared to 1400 MW in the previous Plan). 

The Northwest has long been a leader in energy efficiency, which is one of the major reasons utility rates and bills in the region are among the lowest in the country. Since the Northwest Power Act that established the Council and the planning process went into effect, over 7000 MW of energy efficiency has been achieved, making it our second-largest energy resource behind hydropower. Energy efficiency programs are also popular with customers, and provide cost savings on monthly utility bills, significant employment, and local economic benefits to communities and the regions as a whole. Now is not the time to be backing off this most valuable resource. 

The 2021 Plan also reduces Bonneville Power’s role in providing resources for energy efficiency to small rural utilities. Many rural areas rely on Bonneville Power’s program as the only source of funding for energy efficiency. Absent these programs, rural electric co-op customers will have no utility programs to assist in making energy efficiency investments in their homes and businesses, investments that not only lower their bills, but keep costs lower for everyone. 

We encourage you to register here, and encourage the Council to adopt a more balanced resource strategy that:

  • Better reflects the value of energy efficiency, and its role in a clean energy future by adopting a target that is more consistent with the trajectory from the previous Plan (e.g., at least 1000 MW);
  • Continues BPA’s leadership role in providing energy efficiency and clean energy equitably in the region, especially in rural communities;
  • Incorporates other clean energy technologies that are already available and cost-effective in the region, especially demand response, energy storage, and renewable + storage systems.

This Montana hearing is the first of the four state hearings, and the written comment period is open until Nov 19. If you are not able to attend the virtual hearing, use the online comment page or email comments to Learn more about the process schedule and comment periods here.

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