BPA predicts $6M loss in revenue due to warm winter
By Dean Brickey
BPA officials have reduced their expectations for hydroelectric power revenue this year by more than $225 million because of new forecasts for a continued depressed runoff in the Columbia Basin.
Based on the forecasts, BPA estimates it will finish the fiscal year with a loss of $6 million in modified net revenues instead of the $231.9 million in positive revenues projected at the start of the fiscal year in October.
It’s unclear how the reduction in power production will affect Northwest utilities.
“Whenever you have a low-water year in the Columbia Basin, it’s not good news, but at this point it’s premature to predict the impact it would have to our wholesale cost of power,” said Nate Rivera of Umatilla Electric Cooperative in Hermiston.
Bill Clemens, regional representative for Pacific Power, said he’s in the dark as well.
“We don’t really have any concrete information,” he said. “It will be a while before we know the specific impacts.”
BPA markets power from dams in the federal Columbia River Power System, where water turns hydroelectric turbines. BPA compiled the new estimates as part of its quarterly business review. However, runoff projections have declined further since the estimates were developed.
“This is a very serious decline that impacts our power supply and therefore our finances,” said BPA Administrator Steve Wright. “We’re hopeful that the outlook will improve, but we cannot count on it. The reality is that water is the fuel that provides much of the Northwest’s electricity.”
The reduced estimates result from a persistent El Nino weather pattern that has brought unusually dry conditions to the Northwest. The February forecast from the National Weather Service’s Northwest River Forecast Center called for 79.2 million acre-feet of runoff from January through July as traditionally measured at The Dalles. That represents 74 percent of the 30-year average of 107.3 million and would be the lowest runoff since 2001.