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Murray, Cantwell Increased Investments in Long Neglected Energy Infrastructure in Economic Stimulus Proposal

Dec 22 2008

Senators Urge Investment for Bonneville Power Administration to Meet Future Demand and Create Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Senator-elect Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called for increased investments in our nation’s outdated energy transmission system as part of the economic stimulus package that Congress will consider next month. In the Pacific Northwest, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has historically ensured that the region has sufficient and reliable transmission capacity. However, future growth and the need to adopt new types of renewable energy sources are overwhelming BPA’s current infrastructure while also limiting the creation of green jobs.

The senators sent a letter to the Senate Leadership and the Senate Appropriations Committee calling for an additional $5 billion in Treasury borrowing authority to allow new renewable resources to come online in the next two years. Such an investment could allow 4,700 megawatts of renewable resources to come online and create an estimated 50,000 green jobs, including high wage construction jobs.

"In order for the U.S. to remain a world economic leader, we must transform and revitalize our nation’s energy system to be cleaner, more diverse, and more distributed," said Cantwell. "Right now we have an opportunity to end our over-reliance on fossil fuels, to once again be at the forefront of technological advancement and leadership, and to stimulate our economy while creating new jobs. Providing BPA with the capital it needs to meet increasing demand and allow more wind power to come online will provide a great stimulative boost to our economy and create family-wage jobs."

“Giving BPA the resources needed to create family-wage jobs and bring new energy sources online is exactly the kind of investment we need to make in this stimulus package,” said Senator Murray.  “That’s because it will have both short and long-term economic benefits.  It will allow us to get working today on creating a smarter, more sustainable power grid that is essential to our energy future.”

According to a recent report by the Department of Energy, 20 percent of the U.S. could be powered by wind energy by 2030. But, the U.S. must commit approximately $60 billion in new transmission capacity over the next 20 years to reach that target.

Congress is expected to pass a very robust stimulus bill in January. While details of this package have not been finalized, it is likely to focus primarily on revitalizing America’s infrastructure by funding projects that will create jobs and economic stimulus over the next two years.

A text of the letter follows:

December 19, 2008

Dear Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Chairman Byrd and Senator Cochran:

We are writing to request that the economic stimulus package include $5 billion in additional United States Treasury borrowing authority for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Providing BPA access to capital unavailable on today’s frozen credit markets will immediately stimulate the economy by helping create an estimated 50,000 direct and ancillary green jobs and allowing 4,700 megawatts of new renewable resources to come online in the next two years.

In order to remain a world economic leader we urgently need to transform and revitalize our nation’s energy system to be cleaner, more diverse, and more distributed. Now is the time to make the long neglected investments necessary in our nation’s electricity grid to increase its efficiency and reliability and to meet future demand growth by integrating more renewable and distributed sources of energy onto the grid.

According to a recent report by the Department of Energy, 20 percent of the United States could be powered by wind energy by 2030 if approximately $60 billion is invested in new transmission capacity over the next 20 years. However, future demand growth and the need to accommodate vast new wind farms and other renewable resources threaten to overwhelm BPA’s current infrastructure and its ability to meet national reliability standards.

A timely increase in BPA’s borrowing authority is needed to maintain the value of BPA’s existing systems and to add new transmission capacity and smart grid technologies to meet regional load growth and a more diverse array of energy sources. Increasing BPA’s borrowing authority will quickly enable critically needed energy infrastructure improvements to go forward, creating jobs and ensuring the continued economic prosperity and global competitiveness of the Pacific Northwest, which depends on reliable and affordable energy supplies.

In addition, increasing BPA’s borrowing authority will have virtually no long term cost to taxpayers given BPA’s 25-year record of making its annual payments, with interest, to the U.S. Treasury.

We look forward to working with you to include this vital measure in any stimulus bill considered by the 111th Congress.

Sincerely,

Senators Cantwell, Murray, Wyden, Crapo, Tester, and Senator-elect Merkley