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Tuesday, March 01, 2016 Interview with Ralph Cavanagh (RC), Energy Program Co-Director at NRDC Interview with Ralph Cavanagh (RC), Energy Program Co-Director at NRDC

Seventh Northwest Regional Plan: Revives, rejuvenates and reinforces energy efficiency

March 1, 2016- discusses the adopted Seventh Northwest Plan with Ralph Cavanagh (RC), Energy Program Co-Director at NRDC.  As a champion within focused areas of, renewable energy and residing Northwest Energy Coalition board member, his responses address highlights of the seventh plan edition and expands upon his involvement among the one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups; NRDC.

A renewed whiff of vigor and energy eclipses the air of celebrated picturesque states of, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, with credit being owed to the regions recently approved Seventh Northwest Plan.  The month is marked with a re-introduction into what will be a 20 year regional plan, establishing the foursome states as change stewards and cornerstone leaders in exemplifying why; appointing a greater percentage of its power to resources to energy efficiency in comparison to any other state in the nation, makes its power system the cleanest and most sought after.

There’s no surprise that projected figures over the course of the next two decades show for an increased demand of electrical energy, 36 percent due in part to industrial output.  Despite this, the Northwest reserves no hesitation in its ability to satisfy demanding energy loads, whilst remaining on track to continued reduction of annual carbon dioxide emissions by 22.2 million tons per year.  Statistics as this can be attributed to the plans long standing history founded upon committed leadership, successful energy and investment planning and cost-effective energy efficiency endeavors, all spearheaded by a designated Power and Conservation Council who’ve instilled assurance in sustaining the Northwest as a clean and low cost energy system well into the future.

Q & A Interview:
Q: Why should we pay particular attention to the seventh regional plan installment, what key highlights should we be made aware of?

RC: The Pacific Northwest has a proven record of energy efficiency leadership over more than 30 years, much of it driven by the regular comprehensive updates of the Council's plan (this is the seventh since 1983).  The latest version is remarkable for all the new technologies covered (40% of the savings opportunities involve measures not available five years ago) and its attention to opportunities for savings at times of peak daily energy needs. Since energy consumers in the region are already saving more than $3.5 billion annually thanks to energy efficiency programs and standards guided by earlier plans, the Council speaks with special credibility here.

Q: In the approved plan, climate change analysis recommends "retiring all of the coal plants" but cautions, that achieving "maximum carbon reduction" can pose "operational challenges" - evidently a balanced approach with sufficient reserves needs to be accessible.  

What action plan would you propose to best combat global warming while still accommodating clean energy needs?

RC: The key here is an integrated portfolio of clean energy solutions, achieved through competitive procurement and resource management by increasingly nimble and innovative utilities. The Council's Plan provides a good blueprint; see also California's SB 350, enacted last year, which aims for a combination of increased energy efficiency, renewable energy (reaching 50% of statewide power supply by 2030) and vehicle electrification (electric vehicles are excellent storage devices for renewable energy production).

Q: The Lower Snake dams operating in the power system, caused concern among salmon and wildlife advocates, is there a way in which clean energy and wildlife protection can simultaneously co-exist without undue hardship?
And has NRDC considered a BioGem program to have the dams removed?

RC: The principal proponents of dam removal, Save our Wild Salmon and the Northwest Energy Coalition, have both acknowledged the importance of replacing the dams' generation with clean energy sources, to ensure against ecosystem damage. NRDC strongly agrees, and supports the extensive work by both groups (over more than a decade now) to chart a path forward that meets the goals you are right in highlighting here.

Q:  Your organization has left a positive footprint oversees in China and India, what work have you done there?

RC: Some of our most effective work in both countries has involved energy efficiency standards for new buildings and equipment, which have been NRDC priorities in the US and abroad since the late 1970s. Given the significance of China and India as both manufacturers and sources of greenhouse gas emissions, cooperation on efficiency standards is a matter of intense mutual interest. NRDC takes particular pride, for example, in its role in helping China establish rigorous efficiency standards for lighting systems in new commercial buildings.

Q: What specific initiatives with NRDC do you have on the horizon?

RC: An important national and global priority is changing the fundamental utility business model, to;
(1) eliminate the link between utilities' financial health and growth in electricity use and;
(2) ensure that cost-effective energy efficiency investments are at least as profitable to investor-owned utilities as power generation and transmission. We also need rate designs for electricity and natural gas that reward those who save energy, and continued progress on the EPA's Clean Power Plan once court challenges are resolved over the months ahead. For more, visit my blog.

“By investing in energy efficiency at the levels recommended in the plan, we’ll be able to grow our economy without initiating an aggressive program to build new generating resources, and we’ll keep Northwest electricity rates low and maintain our quality of life,” it’s with this admission by Council Chair Henry Lorenzen’s that puts into context why the new plan positions the Northwest to compete economically in a low-carbon 21st century.

By, Reena Paul for

About Ralph Cavanagh
A Pioneer and leader in seeking out environmental solutions, his focus areas are in electric industry restructuring, electricity competition, utilities, renewable energy, nuclear issues and retail wheeling.

As a graduate of Yale University, Ralph possesses an impressive array of credentials and awards, some of which include; Recipient of Heinz Award for Public Policy, Lifetime Achievement in Energy Efficiency Award from California's Flex Your Power Campaign.

Since 1980, his dedication has been paramount to Northwest utilities where his efforts helped achieve reduced electricity needs and the elimination for new coal-fired and nuclear plants, thus creating lasting partnerships striving towards clean and sustained energy.

You can access Ralph’s blogs here;

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