The Oregon Department of Energy wants the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to set a regional goal of 1,000 MW of energy efficiency by 2027, rather than the range of 750 MW to 1,000 MW targeted in the 2021 Power Plan working draft.

Setting a precise goal in the plan would "send a clear signal that the region recognizes the varied benefits of investments in energy efficiency beyond the traditional metric of kWh of energy saved, and that other benefits need to be quantified and valued," Oregon Department of Energy Director Janine Benner wrote in a June 29 letter to the Council.

The NWPCC Power Committee spent several hours July 13-14 further reviewing draft sections in order to have a revised draft for the full Council in August. If approved by the Council, the draft would then go out for public comment.

But the ODOE request, as well as the working draft's efficiency recommendation, seem unreasonable to Council member Jim Yost, who represents Idaho. During the July 13 meeting of the committee, he said increasing the target from the 500 MW initially recommended by the Council's modeling already seems arbitrary. "I'll tell you right now, I can't justify it," Yost said.

Yost asked staff to explain in the plan why it recommends a higher number.

Lower efficiency goals were one of several controversial results from the Council's significantly revamped GENESYS model. In a dramatic about-face from previous loss-of-load-probability assessments, the new model forecasted a dramatic drop in possible resource shortfalls requiring emergency measures to balance load.

Despite pushback from regional entities, the draft plan includes the new LOLP forecasts of 8.9 percent in 2023 and less than 2 percent by 2025.

To be safe, the draft also recommends utilities increase their reserve and contingency margins. A rapid expansion of cheap renewable energy resources is expected to push down market prices, which in turn are forecast to oftentimes make it uneconomic to run many fossil-fuel units. However, they require time to ramp up, whereas generation from intermittent resources, such as wind and solar, can rapidly drop. Increasing reserve margins by keeping more thermal units on line could help the region avoid facing a sudden shortfall in capacity.

The draft also calls for studying methane emissions from natural gas, which it calls a "significantly potent greenhouse gas."

It also recommends that the Council convene a regional effort to gather greater data on energy equity.

"If you don't have common data between groups, it's hard to tell what is happening," Council Chair Richard Devlin from Oregon said.

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Contributing Editor

Dan has covered stories from Seattle to Tbilisi; spent time with the AP, Everett Daily Herald and Christian Science Monitor; and was twice a member of a team nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He and his wife have three young children and live in Seattle.