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Demand for electricity in Northwest projected to grow 30% in decade, triple previous estimates

By ALEX BAUMHARDT, Oregon Capital Chronicle
Published: May 3, 2024, 6:06am

Electricity demand in the Northwest is expected to grow more than 30% in the next decade, or about 5% more than estimated last year and triple the prediction three years ago, industry experts said in a new report.

Large data centers, an increase in high-tech manufacturing and growing electrification in homes, buildings and transportation are key factors in the forecast.

The projections are in an annual report published Wednesday by the Portland-based industry trade group Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee. For more than 70 years, the group has analyzed annual demand projections from utilities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana to paint a larger picture of future demand for electricity throughout the region.

In 2022, the committee projected demand would grow about 1% each year to 2032. In its latest report, the committee projects demand in the Northwest will grow at least 3% per year until 2034.

The report said that the rapid expansion of data centers is one of the chief drivers in increased electricity use. Oregon’s data center market is the fifth largest in the nation, according to Chicago-based commercial real estate group Cushman & Wakefield. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and X, formerly named Twitter, have massive data centers in eastern Oregon as well as in The Dalles, Hillsboro and Prineville that require enormous amounts of energy to operate. Amazon is planning to build at least 10 more data centers in eastern Oregon, according to reporting by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

High-tech manufacturing and increasing electrification in building and transportation also contribute to the expected increase in demand. Increased demand for electricity for charging electric vehicles is projected to account for about 4% of total electricity demand in the West by 2034. Some utilities, such as Seattle City Light, are projecting demand from its customers for EV charging to be more than double that. Population is also expected to influence demand, with some areas seeing growth and others a drop, and changes in building code laws and energy efficiency mandated by local and state governments will also affect demand, the report said

Members of the utilities committee recommended that regional energy departments collaborate on expanding electrical grids and transmission capabilities across the West to accommodate these changes.

The forecast did not take into account the effect that emerging energy sources and technology, such as offshore wind turbines, long-term energy storage, green hydrogen power and nuclear energy, could play in the future. But the report acknowledged they could “profoundly reshape’ the energy landscape.


This article was originally published by Oregon Capital Chronicle, part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

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