Where Our Power Comes From
Flick on a switch here in Jefferson County and chances are beautiful light has travelled hundreds of miles and is part of a complex network of generation systems from across the region.
Let’s take a moment to shed some light on where our power comes from.
Jefferson PUD contracts with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) for power. The BPA is a self-funded, nonprofit federal power marketing administration within the Department of Energy based in Portland, Oregon. The BOA was created in 1937 by Congress to market electricity from the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River for the Pacific Northwest.
The BPA is one of four federal power marketing agencies in the United States, though it eventually grew to become the largest. In all, the BPA market electrical power from 31 federal hydroelectric dams owned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, one nonfederal nuclear plant, the Columbia Generating System owned by Energy Northwest, and several small nonfederal power plants.
The BPA transmits and sells energy to electric utilities located in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and western Montana, providing roughly 28 percent of the electricity in the region and about 90 percent of that is renewable energy from hydroelectric dams. On occasion, the BPA sells to small parts of eastern Montana, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and even rarer, to Canada. In total, they service around 3 million people and 1.2 million jobs. Public utility companies, who redistribute and sell their power to local communities, are the primary recipient of BPA power.
Added together, Jefferson County PUD power from the BPA is 96% carbon-free, making it one of the greenest energy sources in the country.
Power is generated from federally owned dams, nuclear facility, or other power plants and transported via high voltage, long-distances transmission lines like an energy highway. Metal towers supporting transmission lines are often well over 100 feet tall.
Substations take the high voltage power, reducing it to usable load for our regular household electronics at 240V and 120V. Bonneville manages around 15,000 miles of transmission line and hundreds of substations to ensure that electricity gets safely and reliably to our communities. Locally, distribution lines carry the electricity to homes and businesses.
The BPA allows the PUD to deliver reliable, affordable carbon-free power, as well as being environmentally sustainable. Power prices are among the lowest in the country because they sell power for the cost of generation and not for profit. They cover their costs by selling their products and services and not relying on annual appropriations from Congress. Some of those funds are allocated towards regional efforts to mitigate the impacts of federal dams that harm local fish and wildlife species.
For more information about Bonneville Power Administration, their operations, and mission, please visit their website here.