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Steve Wright | Sharing the benefits of clean hydropower

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Likely I don’t have to convince you about the incredible resource we have here in our backyard — the “fuel” for our homes, businesses, farms, orchards, industry, and our very quality of life we value so deeply. Here in Chelan County, it comes to us in the form of the Columbia and Chelan rivers that deliver continuous, clean, renewable fuel for the three dams that belong to you, our customer-owners.

Not everyone in the Northwest, however, fully understands the importance of this valuable — and renewable — natural resource. There are newcomers to the Northwest who haven’t grown up with hydropower — and not all school programs take the time to teach students about hydropower and how vital it is to the region, the country and the world.

In recent years, attention has turned to alternative energy sources like solar and wind power. As concern grows about carbon emissions and greenhouse gas, traditional sources of power such as coal and natural gas have been called into question because of the potential impact on the environment. What often gets lost in the discussion is the incredible value that hydroelectric power brings to a cleaner energy future.

Recently, I had the privilege to be selected by Gov. Jay Inslee to serve on his statewide taskforce that is being asked to look at tools to reduce carbon emissions. I’m pleased that the bountiful hydroelectric power generation we have here in Washington will serve as a foundation for the dialog about energy production. And, I’m asking all of you to take the time to give me any input you would like me to provide to the task force about how best to further reduce carbon emissions. Feel free to send me a note — my email is at the end of this message.

But back to the concern I have about lack of awareness in our region for the benefits and value of hydropower. A year ago, several hydroelectric utilities and those interested in the benefits of hydropower came together to put forward a CleanHydro campaign. It’s designed to take advantage of television, radio, newspaper and social media to raise awareness about the incredible wealth of hydro resources we have in this region. You may have seen some of the ads.

Did you know that hydropower represents 90 percent of the Northwest’s renewable energy resources? And because more than 70 percent of Washington’s electricity comes from low cost, clean and renewable hydropower, our carbon footprint is about half that of the rest of the country. Besides being the lowest cost generation available, hydropower can also store water in order to produce power when you flick your light switch, making it the premier renewable resource.

Even the “other” Washington is recognizing how valuable hydropower is. At a recent national hydropower conference in Washington, D.C., Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced the administration’s commitment to double hydroelectric power production by 2030. People are taking notice of what we have known all along — hydropower is an essential economic and environmental driver.

We have a great story to tell and I hope you will join me in telling that story. Take a few minutes and look at cleanhydro.com to see what’s being said about hydropower. Feel free to contact me about this topic or anything else you might have on your mind. Thank you.

Steve Wright is general manager of Chelan Public Utility District. He can be reached at steve.wright@chelanpud.org

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