BPA Investing Over $2 Billion in PNW Electricity Grid Thanks to Cantwell-Led Authorization
Projects will increase transmission capacity by up to 6 gigawatts, enough to power about 4.5 million homes; help meet growing demand for more affordable clean power; Cantwell secured $10 billion increase in BPA’s borrowing authority in 2021 infrastructure law, allowing critically needed grid upgrades to move forward
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) recently announced it is moving forward with over $2 billion in electricity grid improvement projects that will significantly increase the capacity and reliability of the Pacific Northwest grid and its ability to integrate new energy sources. Washington state will see $1.35 billion in investments focused on increasing the amount of power that can be moved along four existing transmission lines.
“Revitalizing our region’s energy system to meet future demand will require a massive buildout of new clean generation sources and transmission capacity,” said Sen. Cantwell. “I’m pleased to see BPA is leveraging the financial tools Congress provided them to enable more wind, solar, and green hydrogen projects to come online and ensure the Pacific Northwest power grid remains the most reliable, resilient, and affordable power supplier in the country.”
In July 2021, Sen. Cantwell authored and fought for passage of a bipartisan amendment that eventually resulted in a $10 billion increase in BPA’s borrowing authority being included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The measure allowed BPA to continue to borrow at low-interest rates at no ultimate cost to the taxpayer, so that Bonneville could move forward with the vital projects announced today. Sen. Cantwell’s amendment also linked expanded borrowing authority to new financial oversight requirements and opportunities for increased stakeholder engagement.
Without Sen. Cantwell’s efforts, the borrowing authority would likely not have been established, industry insiders said at the time.
Projects in Washington state include:
Rock Creek-John Day Upgrade: This project will upgrade the existing Rock Creek – John Day #1 500-kV line. By replacing 14 miles of line between the Rock Creek Substation in Goldendale and the John Day Substation in Rufus, Oregon, this project will enable integration of renewable resources in Central Washington and improve overall capacity of the grid. This project is expected to be completed in early 2029.
Schultz-Raver Reconductor: This project will upgrade the existing Schultz-Raver #3 and Schultz-Raver #4 500-kV lines enabling these lines to carry more power along the 77-mile route between BPA’s Schultz Substation in Ellensburg and the Raver Substation in Ravensdale. BPA has also proposed adding a new capacitor at Paul Substation in Centralia and a new Static VAR Compensator at Olympia Substation in Olympia that will further the delivery of renewable resources and improve resiliency of service. This project is expected to be completed in late 2029/early 2030.
Ross-Rivergate Rebuild: This project will upgrade the existing Ross-Rivergate #1 230-kV line. The work will focus on replacing 7.5 miles of line between BPA’s Ross Substation in Vancouver and PGE’s Rivergate Substation in Portland, Oregon, enabling integration of renewable resources and bolstering grid resiliency. This project is expected to be completed in late 2027/early 2028.
Chehalis-Cowlitz Tap Rebuild: This project will upgrade a portion of the existing Chehalis-Covington #1 230-kV line. The work would consist of replacing 35 miles of transmission between BPA’s Chehalis Substation in Chehalis and the Cowlitz Tap in Frederickson, also enabling the integration of renewable resources and mitigating the impact of planned natural gas generation retirements. This project is expected to be completed in late 2027/early 2028.
Bonneville’s generating and transmission portfolio consists primarily of emissions-free sources and is the backbone of an electricity system that is relied on by tens of millions of people throughout the Western United States. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the Pacific Northwest will need to add 56% more transmission capacity by 2040. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council calculates the region will need 3,500 megawatts of new renewable generation by 2027 and 14,000 additional megawatts by 2040. Sen. Cantwell has been a longtime champion of BPA and the cost-based power it helps provide the Pacific Northwest, and has successfully fended off multiple efforts to privatize BPA or increase regional electricity rates.
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