Hydropower keeps power affordable

As a Vera Water and Power customer, you are benefiting from hydropower generated by dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. These dams produce low-cost, reliable, carbon-free electricity, and provide numerous benefits beyond just electricity generation, including economic, recreational, agricultural, navigational, and environmental benefits.

In fact, hydropower is not only the largest clean energy source in the Pacific Northwest, but it also generates approximately two-thirds of our state’s total electricity.

There has been attention placed on breaching these dams. In recent discussions about removing the dams on the lower Snake River, Governor Inslee and US Senator Patty Murray concluded in their federal-state recommendations that breaching the dams is “not a feasible option in the near term,” given the state’s decarbonization mandates and energy affordability goals. They also emphasized that the dams cannot be breached without suitable replacement resources in place.

This spring, Washington legislators approved two new studies to examine the requirements to replace the electricity and transportation infrastructure provided by the lower Snake River dams. Utility organizations, including Vera Water and Power, played an active role in ensuring that these studies included an examination of carbon, cost, and grid reliability impacts.

The Pacific Northwest is a leader in renewable energy and has set a goal to rely only on carbon-free power by 2045. The affordable and reliable carbon-free energy from hydropower dams produces 80 percent of the region’s renewable electricity and plays a vital role in fighting climate change.

However, it’s important to note that salmon are also an essential part of the Pacific Northwest’s environment and culture, especially for Native American tribes in the region. Major upgrades in fish passage facilities have resulted in fish survival rates through every federal dam being between 95% and 98%. These efforts ensure that the region’s hydropower generation does not come at the expense of the environment and its valuable resources.

In conclusion, hydropower is a critical resource for the Pacific Northwest, and the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers play an essential role in providing reliable, affordable, and clean energy to our district and to the region. While discussions about the future of the lower Snake River dams continue, it’s clear that replacing the electricity and transportation infrastructure they provide will require careful consideration of carbon, cost, and grid reliability impacts. Nevertheless, hydropower will remain a valuable energy resource and an essential tool in the fight against climate change.

Presented in collaboration with Northwest RiverPartners. Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization. They represent not-for-profit, community-owned utilities including Vera Water and Power across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada. They also proudly represent farmers, ports, and businesses across the region that support clean energy and low-carbon transportation.  NWRP is focused on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower system betters communities and the natural environment, and they encourage science-based solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and thrive.