Your Co-op’s hydropower advantage

While many utilities across the country struggle to find a clean, reliable and affordable power supply, Flathead Electric continues to enjoy the benefits of hydropower through the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).

Although the BPA has capped the amount of low cost power Flathead Electric can purchase each year, the Co-op still obtains the bulk of its energy supply from BPA.

Flathead Electric also continues to explore alternative energy sources. According to FEC General Manager Mark Johnson, this has caused confusion among some members that the Co-op is phasing out hydropower.

“The opposite is true,” he says. “We need to look at other power sources to supply growth on our distribution system, but for the foreseeable future, we will continue to buy hydropower from BPA. We will also be vigilant to protect our members’ preferential access to hydropower as outside interests endeavor to limit hydro-generation in our region by working through the courts to try and remove the four Lower Snake River dams.”

While alternative energy sources are more expensive and the Co-op continues to see steady incremental rate increases from BPA, the good news is that the Co-op’s rates should continue to be among the lowest in the region, as they have been historically.

“It’s all about keeping perspective,” Johnson says, “and holding fast to our hydropower advantage.”

Advantages of hydropower:

  • Hydropower has virtually no carbon footprint.
  • Hydropower is reliable. Unlike solar or wind energy, it is unvarying and independent of weather and other factors. Intermittent resources like solar or wind need hydropower to fill the gaps when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing.
  • The hydropower projects in our rivers provide effective flood control for Northwest communities, and have created recreational opportunities as well.
  • Water from rivers is a purely domestic resource that cannot be interrupted by foreign suppliers, production strikes or transportation issues.
  • Even though the law states that existing hydro is not renewable, it is largely viewed as a renewable form of energy that does not rely upon finite resources like natural gas or coal to generate power.
  • Hydropower turbines are capable of converting 90 percent of available energy into electricity, which is more efficient than any other form of generation.

Additional resources

Clean Hydro (cleanhyrdo.com) >

Bonneville Power Administration – Hydropower Flows Here >