Forum: Our climate change efforts need to include NW’s grid

With a shared electrical grid, the Northwest needs a cooperative effort on energy production and use.

By Jim Bloss / Herald Forum

Climate change calls for serious, immediate planning efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.

But there is little being written about the importance of regional energy grids and their impacts.

I want to thank The Herald editorial and newsroom staff for its continuing coverage of climate and energy issues. From fusion breakthroughs, to COP 26 reporting and inclusion of discussions about offshore wind turbines and electric vehicles, the newspaper displays a reflection of the concern that 6 of 10 Americans believe climate change will have a direct negative impact on them personally (from a recent Pew survey).

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, with a large portion of it aimed toward funding state action related to addressing climate change, was an important step toward reaching international goals to prevent exceeding a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Less evident however, are the specific plans for taking the concept and making things happen that will actually move the earth’s temperature needle. There is no actual national energy plan, nor do most of the states have their own plans toward making use of this one-time best shot at actually having a chance at affecting our climate.

Of real concern should be the need to ensure that replacement energy sources are available before we start attempting to reduce our carbon presence by reducing or eliminating fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydropower or nuclear). The selection and location planning for the types of renewable energy generation are key to the success of any such large scale effort. One form of renewable energy may be practical, effective and efficient for one part of the country (or state) but not for others. Wind and solar energy production will not work everywhere; mass solar energy production for Western Washington. would be almost silly. Whereas, with one of the lowest national carbon footprints being in Washington, mostly due to our extensive availability of hydropower, an expansion of our hydro-power production seems almost an obvious move as far as return-on-investment of a change from our continuing dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuels. Wind and solar energy production would make much more sense for much of Eastern Washington.

The discussions that we don’t see very often relate to the fact that Washington state shares an energy grid with a number of other nearby states; the Northwest power grid includes shared energy production with Oregon, a part of Northern California, a part of Montana, Idaho and Utah. Planning for changeover from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources needs to be carefully coordinated among these states. The interdependence of energy availability within the grid becomes obvious when one considers that the difference between sourcing energy needs as they occur — given energy storage is still not common among any energy producer — means the difference between good customer service and brownouts and rolling blackouts. Texas and the Northeast U.S. offer examples of this problem.

For now I would suggest that you contact your congressional representatives and thank them for showing their concern for the future survival of our planet by passing the IRA; but maybe more importantly at this time might be checking in with your state legislators, both senators and representatives, and let them know of your interest and concern regarding climate, environmental and energy issues and then ask them if they can let you know if there is planning happening in the state for application and use of the federal funding for climate and energy applications. And ask them what is happening regarding the state’s collaboration with other members of our shared energy grid. Hopefully their responses will be in helpful.

Jim Bloss is a co-lead for the Snohomish County Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. He lives in Monroe.

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