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A final draft is still several months away, but on Tuesday Klamath Project irrigators had the opportunity to hear firsthand from agencies involved in drafting potential solutions to reduce growing power costs in the Klamath Basin.

Under the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, passed last year thanks to a bipartisan collaborative effort by California and Oregon members of Congress, a collective of representatives from multiple partners involved in an ongoing study about rising power costs presented information and answered questions during a presentation at Klamath Community College. The goal was to present information related to the ongoing Affordable Power Measures Study, which builds on the Comprehensive Agricultural Power Plan (CAPP).

Expired contract

A need for cost reduction has emerged over the past decade following the expiration of a 50-year contract in 2006 that had guaranteed favorable power rates via Pacific Power for on-project irrigators. That long-established power purchase agreement prevented the Klamath Project from accessing Project Use Power – power generated at federally owned facilities such as Bonneville Dam – which has been a contributing factor to rising costs following the agreement’s expiration. Following several failed efforts to extend that deal, some irrigators have seen power costs increase as much as 2,000%, according to the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA).

Individuals present represented groups such as the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), U.S. Department of the Interior, the Farmers Conservation Alliance, Sustainable Northwest, Pacific Power, Energy Trust of Oregon, and Oregon Tech. The event was presented by KWUA.

Basin study

Per last year’s legislation, the study seeks to identify a Power Cost Benchmark (PCB), a “net delivered cost to power after calculating expense,” including credits and other factors related to placing water on crops within the Klamath Project. This includes recommended actions, alternative energy options, and public input to reach a point where net delivered power use is equal to or less than the PCB for both near and long-term expectations.

“People know that power rates are a challenge here, but I really think we are going to do something about it,” said Paul Simmons, executive director of KWUA. “We find ourselves on an island not having the same opportunities as other areas since the contract expired.”

Simmons detailed what has led to this point, from original planning of the Klamath Project over a century ago to dam construction to the contracts and licenses under review. Mike Neumann of the BOR followed, highlighting why competitive pricing is difficult to calculate due to a wide variety of factors, further complicated by what Neumann described as, “a patchwork of overlays of providers in the power cost landscape” that can result in varying expense among neighbors regionally.

Federal power

According to Neumann, tapping into federal reserve power is theoretically feasible, but not practical in execution with minimal savings and no provisions for how to handle the costs in part due to use fees on Pacific Power-owned transmission lines.

To calculate the PCB, five similar reclamation projects in the Pacific Northwest were targeted for cost comparisons. These were the Boise Project, Columbia Basin Project, Minidoka Project, Owyhee Project, and Yakima Project. Based on information compiled from these projects, 10 alternatives were recognized from the CAPP report as potential tools to reduce power costs.

“Our goal is to find achievable measures to reduce your power bill,” added Neumann.

Presenting potential cost-reduction measures under consideration in the yet-to-be-completed draft was Lloyd Reed of Lloyd Reed Consulting, part of the Kleinschmidt Group engineering team tasked by BOR for study completion. Reed highlighted possible efforts including utilization of Pacific Power’s net metering programs for shared power generating facilities, Pacific Power’s Time-of-Use retail rate programs by limiting power use during designated peak hours of energy consumption, equipment and efficiency upgrades, and investment in renewable energy generation facilities outside of the Upper Klamath Basin.

Potential options

Other potential alternatives include utilizing existing and future Pacific Power load control programs, development of small hydroelectric generation plants, purchasing federal power, open-access power purchases, and proactive participation in Pacific Power’s retail rates cost-of-service review.

Additionally, several solar photovoltaic options were discussed, from small structures built on individual farms to shared community facilities and large utility-scale solar plants. There was even discussion about floating solar plants as a potential solution, something which Oregon Tech students recently developed for Upper Klamath Lake.

According to Lloyd, solar photovoltaic user costs for implementation range from $3,000 per kilowatt-hour to as low as $800 per kilowatt-hour, dependent on scale, number of participants, and other varying factors.

Each group present was also granted the opportunity to speak, highlighting various cost-cutting programs and incentives to irrigators related to equipment modernization and water use reduction such as low-flow nozzle and sprinkler systems. Oregon Tech noted the interest of students in seeking partnerships with regional water users for potential projects, from floating solar plants to automated pumping systems.

Sustainable Northwest, an active partner in forging long-term strategies for energy consumption in the Klamath Basin, announced an upcoming energy symposium to be held in Klamath Falls Oct. 17-18 at Oregon Tech to tour facilities and discuss cost-saving measures.

“We thought contract extension was deserved, but it didn’t happen, so we got help from Congress to get this launched,” added Simmons. “BOR has done a great job managing this project, the team is solid. We are off to a good start, and we are going to keep working.”

The draft report is expected to be submitted by late November.