The Western Grid's Clean Energy Future

Our energy future can go down the road of business as usual, or a clean energy vision can be implemented according  to "Western Grid 2050: Contrasting Futures, Contrasting Fortunes" a 165 page report released this week by the Western Grid Group (WGG) with support from the Western Clean Energy Advocates (WCEA). WCEA, an alliance of more than 25 renewable energy industry, environmental, tribal, public health and regulatory groups and advocates, is joined by former Colorado State Governor Bill Ritter in calling for state leadership and regional collaboration to achieve the clean energy vision.
The report lays out two contrasting paths, the business as usual (BAU) and the clean energy vision (CEV). It demonstrates how the over $200 billion that growing demand in eleven Western states requires to be invested in the western electricity system infrastructure in the next twenty years would be deployed given the two paths. Report author Carl Linvill said "it's time to rethink our grid. Advances in information, communications and clean energy technologies have opened the opportunity to overcome the barriers of twentieth century grid technology and transition to a 21st century clean energy economy in the West."
The report looks at the power grid system and energy resource mix achievable under the two paths. The BAU path assumes continued dependence on currently used power resources and infrastructure, renewable deployment only to the extent of current legislative mandates and modest energy efficiency measures. THE CEV assumes aggressive pursuit of demand reduction through energy efficiency conservation, demand response distribution and distributed or small-scale power generation. The report found that, if carefully planned, the CEV would have six major benefits:
- CEV creates more local jobs than BAU. While BAU assumes high fuel expenditure, CEV assumes more direct investment in infrastructure development and operation
- CEV's energy supply is more secure and reliable due to less dependence on price-sensitive fossil fuels and centralized power generation.
- CEV can save costs for power customers. The CEV path can be achieved at a lower cost than the BAU due to the BAU's higher fuel and carbon costs.
- CEV has less impact on the west's water supply. Electricity-related water use would be cut in half by 2050 saving over 30 billion gallons of scarce Western water in the CEV.
- CEV benefits public health by preventing illness stemming from air-borne particulate matter and mercury exposure.
In the second phase of the Western Grid 2050 report  to be released in September, the WGG and WCEA will examine “Clean Energy Vision Policies”, policies in place that can be improved and new state policy alternatives that can support the transition to the Clean Energy Vision path. AS Governor Ritter said, "We can't afford to wait for Washington, nor should we. The West is the land of frontiers, of pioneers and innovation. Let's make good on that heritage. Let's break with business as usual and build a more prosperous, safe, and sustainable future."

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I am a Seattle-based writer. Energy efficiency and the achievement of human potential are my goals. I have worked as a legislative aide and a database manager, and recently started building a money- and energy-saving household goods online store featuring sensible and affordable home environment solutions including ENERGY STAR qualified products. Contact: Twitter: @Greenbespoke @SaveWattsatHome