Power demand soaring

This summer, wholesale power costs could reach more than 250 percent of current rates, due to the energy crisis, high demand for power and drought, according to John Lebens from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Lebens says this will affect everyone in the Northwest and beyond.

These issues were addressed last Friday by a group of panelists in the College of Urban and Public Affairs, with former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse serving as moderator. Each panelist talked about what their organizations are doing and proposed solutions to the energy and environmental issues.

Lebens said the energy crisis and drought have brought a high demand on BPA, who sells wholesale power to local utilities.

“It’s easy to point a finger at California for our problems, but like a good neighbor we don’t,” Lebens said.

The BPA will submit a proposed rate for the next five years to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June, which will decide the rates that will go into effect this October.

“We’re going through a big storm, but we’re going to survive it,” Lebens added. “If we get enough rain, we’ll probably be in good shape and filling our obligations to the fish.”

This was also the intention of Charles Hudson from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, whose goal is to “get the national energy crisis off salmon backs.”

“We have strong, different ways of handling dams,” Hudson added.”We are appealing to the Bush administration.”

“Wish we had an answer, but I know we have a problem,” said Pete Test of Oregon Farm Bureau. “It takes a lot of people to come up with solutions.”Test said Oregon needs agriculture, stating that there should be no split between urban and rural, even though there is.

He said that both urban and rural areas are dependent on each other, yet we still compete for six percent of the water.

“We’re fighting with ourselves,” Test added. “Agriculture produces something people can use.”

Wayne Lei from Portland General Electric offered a futuristic solution. Lei said PGE might develop distributed generation systems to create power. These small devices could be installed in each resident’s home. He said this technology could happen within a decade.

“Energy efficiency should be with us all the time,” Lei added.

Jeff Bissonnette, from The Fair and Clean Energy Coalition, encouraged people to conserve energy by turning to renewable sources, and he advised “don’t screw with the environment.”

Tim Hester of the Sierra Club criticized the Bush administration’s plan to drill in the Arctic, which “we recognize is not the answer.”

Hester said we need cleaner and cheaper energy. One solution is to raise the gas standard on cars to 27 miles per gallon. This would save one million barrels of oil per day and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“We feel it’s completely wrong” for the Bush administration to cut 50 percent renewable funding, Hester said.

Hester also said his organization doesn’t agree with BPA’s plan to sell power to the aluminum industry, but they’re glad to be working on this issue together to come up with a solution.

Citizens can help save energy by replacing conventional light bulbs with compact fluorescents. These light bulbs use 75 percent less energy and last eight to 10 times longer.

Other simple measures for saving energy are turning off lights, computers, household appliances when they are not in use, setting water heater temperature to 115, setting thermostats to 68 degrees and checking furnaces.Log on to www.bpa.gov for more energy saving tips.