The Pacific Northwest needs more – and varied – electricity sources to maintain reliability and achieve a carbon-free system by 2045, according to a recent Energy Northwest study.
The study was prepared by Energy + Environmental Economics (E3), a San Francisco-based consulting group.
“With the recent Washington clean energy legislation we felt the need to follow up on previous studies and look at all the options on the table,” said Greg Cullen, general manager of Energy Services and Development at Energy Northwest.
Governor Inslee’s Clean Energy Transformation Act sets the state of Washington on a path toward 100% clean energy by 2045. Meanwhile, Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station – the state’s third-largest producer of electricity – is set to be decommissioned in 2043.
Energy Northwest is a utility agency comprised of 27 public utilities districts and municipalities across the state. In addition to the Columbia Generating Station, Energy Northwest oversees wind, hydroelectric and solar power facilities.
“Renewables are a very good source of energy, but we don’t control when they’re on and when they’re off,” said Cullen. “In order to be successful in meeting a carbon-constrained energy portfolio, we need firm, clean generation resources that can pair well with renewables.”
Along with looking into extending the license of the Columbia Generating Station past 2043, the study presented the possibility of adding a small modular nuclear reactor.
“Small modular reactors can be a very cost effective part of a clean energy portfolio because of the ability to turn them off and on, to be flexible, to ramp up and down in power, but do that without emitting carbon,” said Cullen.