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BPA Reconvenes ‘Non-Wires’ Panel To Review Alternatives To I-5 Transmission Project
Posted on Friday, January 28, 2011 (PST)

BPA will reconvene an expert panel to evaluate a recent report suggesting that aggressive energy efficiency measures and other actions could delay the need for a new power line on the I-5 Corridor in southwest Washington.


Consistent with recommendations from the report’s authors, BPA will continue environmental review and maintain its current schedule for a decision on the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project. If the measures are not feasible, BPA would face tight deadlines to complete the power line in time to ensure reliable delivery of electricity to the Portland/Vancouver area.


The agency is reconvening the Non-Wires Solutions Round Table, an independent group of energy experts and utility leaders initially invited in 2003 to see if there were alternatives to building transmission lines. BPA is one of the nation's few utilities that has incorporated the review of "non-wires" alternatives into its transmission line planning process.


In 2010, BPA commissioned an independent analysis of non-wires alternatives to its proposed I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project. Building a line between Castle Rock, Wash., and Troutdale, Ore., is proposed because increasing summer power demand in the Longview-Vancouver-Portland area will require additional capacity to avoid the threat of outages in coming years.


BPA received the non-wires screening report this month from Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (also known as E3), a San Francisco-based engineering firm that specializes in electricity markets. The report includes an updated electricity demand forecast acknowledging the severe recession’s downward impact. It suggests that aggressive energy efficiency and the potential to temporarily shift where power is generated when the transmission system is stressed could delay the need to construct a new line. However, the report emphasizes that the non-wires options remain unproven and uncertain, so they will be examined in a more detailed study to test their feasibility.


Results of that more in-depth analysis are expected sometime this summer. The findings will be released to the public when complete and will be documented in the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project draft environmental impact statement examining project alternatives. The draft EIS is scheduled for release this fall.


BPA introduced the proposed 500-kilovolt I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project to the public in Sept. 2009. The line is intended to resolve increasing transmission system congestion that could lead to power outages in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon later this decade.


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