Offshore wind development is starting to gain more attention along the West Coast, and with a new clean energy-friendly administration now in control in Washington, D.C., it only seems a matter of time before some ambitious developer looks at the waters off the Pacific Northwest and dreams o…

A new year is a useful time to take stock and look to the past as well as the future. We presented our top-five 2020 stories last week, and here we offer some key regional energy issues/themes we expect to follow in 2021. Although this list is neither exhaustive nor ranked, we hope you find it worthwhile.

In an extraordinary year marked by a pandemic and political upheaval, Northwest utilities rolled with the punches in 2020, and will be starting the new year with the possibility of things improving.

In the spirit of the season, we present our annual energy-themed carols for your holiday enjoyment. We will take a publishing break next week, and our next issue will come to you on Friday, Jan. 8. From all of us at NewsData to all of you, best wishes for the holidays and for 2021!

Puget Sound Energy will file its draft 2021 integrated resource plan on Jan. 4, but the 20-year planning document is already proving to be unpopular. Neither environmental groups, nor the utility, seem to be satisfied with the results. A storm of opposition is brewing to it, like the one Portland General Electric faced four years ago when it proposed a new natural gas plant.

An upcoming webinar at the end of January will explore the timely and vital topic of electric resource adequacy in California and the West. The Jan. 28-29 event, co-presented by NewsData and CJB Energy Economics, will feature a host of energy leaders from the Golden State as well as the Northwest and other points West.

Elliot Mainzer has a laundry list of challenges ahead of him as he takes the helm of the California ISO, most notably reforming a resource-adequacy program that has run off the rails a bit in the state, as well as improving the ISO's relationship with state agencies.

Jim Litchfield, who has worked on energy and salmon recovery issues in the Columbia Basin for 40 years, is retiring. After serving with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council for 11 years—and becoming its first power planning director—Litchfield opened a consulting firm and has worked with the region's energy leaders, states and nonprofits. On the eve of his retirement, he spoke with Clearing Up's K.C. Mehaffey about his thoughts on salmon recovery.

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On this Thanksgiving Day eve, we'd like to share with you notes of gratitude in this especially difficult year, from some members of the Northwest energy community. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

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While the promise of electrification—replacing natural gas by electricity in heating and power use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—has much to recommend it in principal and "on paper," in practice it could be a complex endeavor, and may end up increasing cost for little reduction of GHG. Some of the pitfalls are explored in a recent study.

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A Danish investment fund has acquired three proposed hydro pumped storage projects in the Northwest, likely giving the proposed closed-loop ventures the financing needed to see them through development. But with capacity deficits on the horizon, and climate policies that largely prohibit development of fossil-fuel projects, the question is: Can the Northwest still build large, expensive infrastructure projects?

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The emergence of several ventures for the development, commercialization and application of next-generation battery technology around the state suggests Washington has a shot at becoming known for being in the center of that energy technology's future.

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Economist and veteran of the Northwest power scene, Robert McCullough gives his view of the root-cause analysis of the rolling blackouts California invoked during two days in August, and presents some solutions.

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Nicole Hughes, executive director of Portland-based Renewable Northwest, responds in this week's column to a recent article in Clearing Up (CU No. 1970 [13]) that outlined Benton County PUD's preference for nuclear power—especially small modular reactors—over wind for decarbonizing its generation portfolio. The PUD, located in Washington, laid out this position in a paper the utility released in July.

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Developers of a proposed solar panel and photovoltaic cell manufacturing plant in Washington state are making bold promises about products to be made and jobs to be generated. Whether they can deliver on those promises will help shape the public's perception of the ability of clean and green tech to generate new jobs to replace those lost in the major economic transition.

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The mid-August rolling blackouts in California raise serious resource adequacy issues, including metrics to measure RA, writes guest columnist Tom Karier. He suggests California could benefit from moving away from a reserve margin and instead use loss of load probability, as the Northwest does, to gauge the amount of future risk and the relative urgency of the problem.

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While some say the August blackouts in California were due to problems stemming from the state's renewable energy policies, one theory attributes it to insufficient planning-reserve margin and overvaluing some resources for reliability, coupled with inadequate capacity on the system. Another theory was that California ISO failed its own resource sufficiency test, locking out capacity. In any case, the last words on the blackouts are yet to come.

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Northwest RiverPartners Executive Director Kurt Miller proposes conducting statistical testing for dam-caused delayed salmon mortality, and letting the outcome be the basis for a four-state salmon/hydropower solution. The test, he says, should be based on biomedical "best practices"—randomized double-blind experiments with explicit treatment and control groups—which he says would provide a "more objective scientific basis for creating effective salmon recovery policies and improving transparency in decision making."

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Announcements from heavy-duty truck manufacturers like Paccar and Freightliner, and emerging companies like Tesla and Nikola, are a clear indicator that e-truck technology is a thing of the here and now, not some distant day. Utilities need to be ready.

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Although electric vehicles are concentrated in metropolitan areas, a new Northwest regional study and a companion planning guide indicate EVs could bring many benefits to smaller communities, in particular for public-power utilities and their customers. Bottom-line findings show net ratepayer benefits of $300 to $1,000 per electric vehicle, and $4,100 per EV for the local economy.

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Joe Biden released a climate action plan that draws heavily from the platforms of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former candidates in this year's presidential race. This column explores some of the ramifications of the plan's central pillar, a carbon pollution-free electric sector by 2035.

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Artificially low fixed charges by electric utilities can be detrimental to low-income customers, writes Scott Coe, GM of Oregon's Emerald PUD, in a guest column. They can also inequitably benefit wealthier customers, who can afford energy efficiency or solar investments, and thus pay less of their share of embedded system costs, leaving others to bear those costs. Coe writes that rate design will increasingly drive inequitable outcomes unless cost-based principles are followed.

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Three stories to ruminate upon. First, the utility industry is increasingly finding itself enmeshed in global trade and security disputes. Second, the next big wave of motorized vehicle electrification could be occurring down on the farm. Third, the abrupt closing of a newsprint mill in northeast Washington is a reminder of the perils of having one big customer in town.

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Chinook salmon are king in the Pacific Northwest, but when it comes to competing in the ocean, they're losing out to the smallest of Pacific salmon—pinks. In mid-June, the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission announced salmon catches from 2019, and the winners are clearly Russia and Alaska, where pink salmon are ultra-abundant.

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While most of the recent focus on racial equity has been on police violence against Black Americans, utilities have a key role to play in advancing racial equity in America, advocates note, saying they need to step up their game.

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The 2020 Northwest Wholesale Power Markets Conference--Online is coming soon, on the mornings of June 25 and 26. Co-produced by NewsData and CJB Energy Economics, this virtual event features leading regional energy experts sharing insights on vital topics related to power markets, utility resources, the regional grid and more. Please join us!

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There was a time when advocating for termination of the Columbia River Treaty was considered radical, or at least a little reckless. That time has passed. If the goal is to secure a new agreement with Canada governing international water flows in the Columbia Basin, the only alternative for the United States is to terminate the old treaty, writes guest columnist Tom Karier.

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We are excited to announce the 2020 Northwest Wholesale Power Markets Conference—Online, the mornings of June 25 and 26. This virtual event, co-produced by NewsData and CJB Energy Economics, will offer timely, objective and actionable information from leading regional energy experts on key topics related to power markets, utility resources, the regional grid and more.

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Darrel Anderson will end a 24-year career at Idaho Power when he retires June 1 as CEO. Anderson already has seen plenty of change during his time in the industry. Even more is here or anticipated—decarbonization, declining loads, electrification and microgrids, to name just a few examples. …

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Northwest Wholesale Power Markets Online 2020 Webinar I, Presented by CJB Energy Economics and NewsData, June 25-26, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. each day

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With the prospect of sizable regional capacity deficits in coming years, a potential Northwest resource adequacy program is in development under auspices of the Northwest Power Pool and a steering committee with representatives from 18 entities. The proposed venture is in preliminary design, and at an April 24 webinar some preliminary ideas were shared about RA metrics and considerations for program governance and structure.

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In the recently released draft EIS for the Columbia River hydropower system, federal agencies supported a different underlying science for their preferred alternative. This abrupt change highlights the need for independent science to help identify the best strategy to recover endangered fish populations, writes contributing columnist Tom Karier.

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The new coronavirus is exacting a tragic human toll along with economic calamity. It also looks to usher in an era of heightened uncertainties in energy, as even experts acknowledge in looking ahead to the coming months and years.

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The well-known trend of retiring Northwest coal plants and some of its implications is detailed in the just-released 2020 Northwest Regional Forecast from Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee. The NRF, an annual 10-year forecast of utility loads and resources, also highlights a planned surge in solar plus storage along with other new renewables, modest projected load growth and continuing robust energy efficiency. It also notes the energy-system uncertainties from COVID-19.

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In the second of a series of podcast interviews featuring Pacific Northwest utility leaders discussing the coronavirus pandemic, Puget Sound Energy President/CEO Mary Kipp talks about her utility's early approach; the utility's ongoing operational work and social-distancing adaptations; load reductions, near term and beyond; utility actions for health/safety and easing economic hardships; staying connected with customers and local communities; and potential longer-term impacts on the utility and energy industry.

In the first of a series of columns/podcasts featuring leaders of Northwest utilities and their responses to the coronavirus pandemic, I talked with Snohomish County PUD CEO/GM John Haarlow. He shared the utility's focus on health, safety and economic-mitigation measures, as well as insights on demand patterns and longer-term impacts of the pandemic on the electric industry and the PUD.

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The COVID-19 pandemic casts a large shadow over the entire world, including our region. This column explores initial pandemic responses from the regional electric and natural gas industries, and outlines a preliminary and partial list of energy-related questions and challenges from this fast-moving crisis.

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Useful, usable price-comparison data for electric utility service has long been hard to get. A proposal to expand and enhance a national database of electricity rates promises to change that, and if it does it will open up a lot of discussions between utilities and their residential and business customers.

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We are excited to welcome as a guest columnist Tom Karier, a former Washington member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council for 20 years, and now an economics professor at Eastern Washington University. In his first column for Clearing Up, Karier explores the efficacy of spill along with the notion of federal court-ordered salmon-recovery measures, and finds limitations for both.

For your convenience, NewsData has compiled a list of the acronyms we utilize throughout the Clearing Up Publication. Read more