By Brandon Ratterman
Almost 60 percent of Oregon’s electricity is generated from hydroelectric power, which is considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a renewable energy resource. However, the state is struggling to meet the mandated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 15 percent renewable generation by 2015, as hydroelectricity generated at facilities built before 1995 does not qualify as a renewable resource. Since most hydroelectric facilities were built before 1995, the state has been forced to use wind energy to fill this void. Unfortunately, wind energy in Oregon produces some counterproductive effects.
Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is one of the main providers of hydroelectric power in Oregon, but because their facilities do not contribute to the mandated renewable portfolio standards, they are forced to give wind producers access to their transmission lines. As a result, the amount of electricity that BPA can supply to the grid is reduced, and BPA is forced to spill excess water over their dams, resulting in increased turbulence and toxic levels of nitrogen.
Oregonians annually spend over half a billion dollars to protect the fish and wildlife, which are now threatened by these increased nitrogen levels. As a result, Oregon courts are requiring hydroelectric producers to remedy the situation, despite the fact that wind energy is the root cause of this issue. Organizations such as BPA are being forced to pay wind producers to power down during times of high runoff. On average, this is estimated to cost Oregon ratepayers $12 million annually, with potential costs ranging up to $50 million. In return, Oregonians will receive the same electricity, derived from the same energy source, as they did in the past.
The fact that Oregon’s hydroelectric power does not count toward its renewable portfolio standards, even though the EPA recognizes it as a renewable source, proves that the concept of “green energy” is geared toward increased spending that makes electricity more expensive. If lawmakers are committed to reducing emissions in an economically sustainable way, hydroelectricity needs to be recognized as a renewable resource.