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A coalition of Pacific Northwest energy companies has filed a complaint against the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), accusing the agency of using its control of the region's grid to break its contracts and seize transmission rights. The complaint was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), citing violation of the Federal Power Act.

In May, BPA partially and temporarily limited the output of wind, fossil-fuel and other thermal power generation. The administration curtailed approximately 200 MW to 350 MW of wind power generation, totaling approximately 1,400 MWh. There is currently more than 3,500 MW of wind energy connected to the BPA system.

"This is setting a dangerous precedent for the sanctity of contracts in the Pacific Northwest and the nation, and will greatly jeopardize the development of renewable energy in the region," says Don Furman, senior vice president of Iberdrola Renewables.

The BPA said the action was required to protect salmon and steelhead, maintain the reliability of the power grid and avoid shifting costs to customers. The decision came as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased river flows to maintain space in upstream reservoirs for further runoff from the largest Northwest snowpack since 1997. The Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and BPA are required under a court order to manage spill levels to protect fish.

The coalition is composed of Iberdrola Renewables, PacifiCorp, NextEra Energy Resources, Horizon Wind Energy and Invenergy. The coalition says it has collectively invested more than $6 billion in new renewable generation in the Pacific Northwest.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) filed comments with FERC, strongly supporting the energy companies and their complaint against BPA.

AWEA's comments in support of the filing against BPA at FERC allege that BPA has violated contracts with wind generators and discriminated against those generators in favor of its own economic interests.

AWEA contends that there are multiple means by which BPA could have satisfied its contractual, reliability and environmental obligations, instead of curtailing wind generation.

"BPA's curtailment and redispatch policy will significantly limit further development of and investment in renewable energy projects," says Tom Vinson, senior director for regulatory affairs at AWEA. "Solutions need to be found from the current situation to develop a better policy, moving forward."

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