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Northwest Passage: BPA's Changing Role

The treacherous journey toward a more efficient and transparent Northwest power market may be nearing its conclusion.
Fortnightly Magazine - July 2004

context of growing environmental concerns, policy-makers and utility planners are focusing on windpower and conservation opportunities to meet a greater share of future power demand. Renewable portfolio standards and other initiatives directly encourage investments in renewables and conservation, and efforts to establish the Grid West RTO might yield transmission investments that could bring power generated in such windy states as Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho across the mountains to serve loads on the West Coast.

On a purely economic basis, however, windpower alone will not support much new transmission infrastructure in the foreseeable future. The investment required to traverse the mountains requires a more lucrative opportunity-for example, the coal fields of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

"In effect, the windpower industry is partnering with the coal industry," says a source who asked not to be identified. "Those states have windy places and coal reserves, as well as a crying need for economic development and an enhanced tax base. With the next generation of the transmission system, we will pick up wind along with coal."

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