Striving for Balance
Many of you might remember Barbara Mandrell’s song, “I was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” A friend in the utility business has often reminded me that here in the Northwest, our power was renewable when renewable wasn’t cool.
In traveling across the region, you have probably noticed increased development of solar and wind generation projects. Maybe you are following the impending changes in the transportation sector, with most major vehicle companies announcing plans to offer more electric vehicles—some planning to build electric cars and pickups exclusively.
Overall, national interest in clean energy has increased. However, in the Northwest, renewable energy is certainly not new. Solar, wind and hydro power have been around for decades. Innovations and advances in renewable technology have decreased cost, making it more competitive with traditional resources, but we have enjoyed the benefits of clean sources of energy for many years.
Nearly all United Electric’s supply of power comes from the Bonneville Power Administration. Today, approximately 85% of Bonneville’s fuel mix is comprised of renewable energy sources, the majority of which is hydroelectricity. In fact, Northwest hydroelectric dams that are part of the Federal Columbia River Power System provide more electricity than any other river system in North America.
As a co-op, United Electric is a public preference customer of the Bonneville Power Administration. This means clean, reliable power is purchased and delivered to you at cost.
As generation resources are developed that reduce carbon emissions, the transition to clean power will continue to evolve. However, it takes a long time to turn the direction of a large ship, and changing the energy mix needed to power homes and businesses can’t happen overnight.
While renewable energy use is increasing, traditional forms of energy are used to keep power flowing reliably to your home. After all, solar and wind energy are referred to as intermittent power since the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow. That’s why there is real value in maintaining a balanced mixture of fuel types to ensure reliability and resiliency and meet the growing demand for electricity.
The Northwest hydropower system has a vital role in providing a clean and stable energy supply for members of United Electric. While United Electric will continue evaluating ways to take advantage of technology as it advances and market opportunities as they become available, it will continue to leverage the flexibility and value of hydropower to bring safe, reliable and affordable power to our community.
Albert Einstein once observed, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” For United Electric to meet the growing demand for renewable energy and ensure the reliability of our power supply, we must constantly strive for a balanced and bright future for our members.