Wind & Solar Cannot Replace Hydropower in Cold Weather

March 01, 2024
Angie Villery
Angie Villery, Vice President Salem Electric Board of Directors

The Pacific Northwest benefits from clean, affordable, and reliable hydropower, which plays a crucial role in our region’s energy landscape. However, there are concerns regarding the potential impact of recent governmental initiatives, such as the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative and the Partnership with the Six Sovereigns, on this vital resource.

As a director and member of an electric cooperative, I must express my strong opposition to certain aspects of these agreements.


The proposed limitations on power generation at the Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) and the possibility of dam breaching could have significant repercussions for Salem Electric members. These decisions were made without input from public power stakeholders, impacting millions of utility consumers. The proposed measures could lead to a substantial increase in wholesale power costs of 50% or more and raise concerns about adequate regional power supply.

My concerns were confirmed as we kicked off this year with frigid temperatures. As extreme temperatures gripped the region, the need to keep our lights on and our homes and businesses warm created record-high demand for electricity. Once again, the Northwest’s dependable hydropower system did the heavy lifting to meet the power needs of the region, providing about 70% of electricity consumed.


The parties that proposed the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative suggest that the power generated by the LSRD can be replaced by wind and solar. The sub-freezing temperatures in January told a very different story. On Saturday, January 13, the output from Bonneville Power Administration’s wind and solar plummeted from 1,000 megawatts (MW) to near zero by the following Monday. Meanwhile, the LSRD consistently ramped up to over 1,000 MW of generation twice a day to meet peak demand.

This is why the persistent attack on the dams is so concerning. We can protect our salmon and at the same time provide affordable and reliable energy for our communities. As a Salem Electric member, we need your voice. Visit to advocate for affordable, reliable public power.


BPA Generation Graph