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Don't let BPA squander clean energy jobs and innovation.

Clean Energy / Salmon ActionLast year, we faced the one of the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In many ways, this tragedy helped renew a conversation about our energy future.

While oil was spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Northwest was facing an incredibly stormy spring; lots of wind and rain led to a surplus of energy from both hydroelectric dams and wind turbines. The same situation is playing out this year to an even larger extent, due to another wet spring and a snowpack that’s well above average.

Yet, instead of using last spring’s abundance of power as an opportunity to expand and diversify the Northwest’s economy and clean energy portfolio, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) – which manages much of the Northwest’s energy transmission – opted instead to undertake a protocol where, in times of high wind and high water, BPA shuts off wind turbines as a way to reduce surplus power on the region’s grid. By putting wind power on the chopping block, BPA is shielding dam energy at the expense of clean energy jobs.

BPA has now implemented this “over-generation” strategy and has begun shutting down wind – a move that harms Northwest renewable energy development and the good jobs that go with it.

TAKE ACTION BELOW: Urge Secretary Chu and the U.S. Senate to change BPA’s current course.

Recipients

  • Your Senators

Message

Please provide more oversight of the Bonneville Power Administration.

Dear [Decision Maker],

I write to you today seeking better oversight from the Department of Energy of the Bonneville Power Administration's policies on energy and salmon.

It has been a year since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill gripped our nation, renewing a conversation about America's energy future. Fortunately there are several regions in America, including the Pacific Northwest, that are blessed with abundant clean energy and energy conservation opportunities.

While oil was spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, the Northwest was facing an incredibly stormy spring; lots of wind and rain led to a surplus of energy from both hydroelectric dams and wind turbines. The same situation is playing out this year as well to an even greater extent.

Unfortunately, the region's lead energy manager, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), is using salmon as an excuse to shut off wind energy production as a way to address "over-generation" of electricity during periods of high water and high wind.

BPA is claiming legal constraints for salmon compel the agency to curtail wind power production while keeping the dams running. Such a policy undermines renewable energy generation -- and the jobs this industry provides -- and is harmful to ocean-bound juvenile salmon.

The agency has had years to prepare for these types of over-generation scenarios by improving the power grid to accommodate the booming production of wind and other renewable energy and finding ways to store that power. Instead, BPA has dragged its feet in preference for the higher revenues associated with hydropower. The idea that salmon are somehow to blame for their failure to plan is disingenuous at best.



This year's over-generation situation also provides an opportunity for a closer look at removing the four dams on the lower Snake River. These dams do not provide flood control, are poor at backing up wind relative to other dams in the region, and are now contributing to the over-generation problem. What's more, the continued existence of these dams is preventing more wind energy - and the jobs that go with this investment - from coming online. They are also enormously harmful to imperiled salmon and steelhead.

A BPA official was recently quoted in the Oregonian newspaper as saying "every time we choke down 1,000 megawatts [of wind energy], another 250, 500 or 1,000 megawatts shows up." I don't think adding more clean energy generation should be viewed as a bad thing. In fact, all of the growing wind generation and energy conservation in the Northwest, alongside these "over-generation" scenarios, makes the conversation about removing the four lower Snake River dams to help wild salmon and steelhead all the more relevant.

President Obama came to office with broad goals for clean energy and rebuilding the economy. I think it's time we put these long-term goals into action. In the Northwest, that means a clear commitment from BPA to invest in long-term clean energy solutions rather than focusing on increased hydropower sales. Your agency can help. I urge you to provide more oversight of BPA, help the Northwest update its energy grid, and use all the tools available to help reach our shared goals of healthy salmon populations and a clean energy future.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]

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