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United States

Utilities offered incentive to green

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) in the US Northwest is proposing giving its utility customers that invest in renewable energy and conservation a discount on its electricity. Lauded by the Northwest Energy Coalition -- an association of groups that promote such investments -- the BPA proposal is part of a plan for the power marketing agency to market 6300 MW of low cost hydropower from the Columbia River dam system.

This is a turnaround for BPA from the way it was acting six months ago, says Mark Glyde of the energy coalition in Seattle. The BPA has been cutting back on its conservation and renewable investments. He attributes the turn around, in part, to the efforts of Judi Johansen, the BPA's new administrator. The BPA has not specified the size of the discount, says Glyde, but the agency says its goal is for all utilities to invest 3% of their retail revenues in renewables and conservation, as recommended by the Comprehensive Review of the Northwest Energy System, a committee of policy makers, environmental groups and utilities. BPA's discount on power for those utilities is not expected to be more than 3%, he adds. "We're a little worried that the BPA might have to sweeten the pie," says Glyde. "Three percent might not be enough of a discount, especially for utilities that purchase a small percentage of their power needs from the BPA."

The draft subscription plan lays out which customers may buy power at BPA's preference rate and how much they may acquire. Public utilities are eligible to buy up to 5500 MW.

Meanwhile, Johansen said recently that Pacific Northwest utilities could face a shortfall of 7000 MW in 2002 or 2003 if the region experiences low stream flows and a cold snap. For the BPA, the shortfall would be about 2000 MW, says Crystal Ball of the BPA.

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