Hydropower, by the Numbers

With the environment—specifically, carbon emissions—attracting so much attention these days, “going green” is no longer simply a matter of new lightbulbs or installing Energy Star-rated appliances.

With an ever-growing array of electronic and smart devices filling our lives—not to mention an explosion of electric vehicles filling our roads—the conversation about carbon has expanded to include the emissions required to generate the electricity that powers those devices.

For Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) members, water is the driving force that powers our lives via the hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest. While water power might seem strange given WREC’s location in Nevada’s high desert, the cooperative also lies on the edge of the Columbia River Basin.

As talk increases about renewable energy—usually focused on solar panels and wind turbines—WREC can proudly say its energy portfolio has been almost entirely carbon-free for decades. Indeed, the dams of the Columbia and Snake rivers have been a huge boon to the region in many ways.

  • $24 billion — The amount of annual imports and exports supported by the river system, creating jobs for farmers, engineers, biologists, barge crews, and countless others.
  • 0 — Hydropower generates no carbon emissions.
  • 40% — The Northwest’s contribution to the nation’s overall hydroelectric production.
  • 100% — Because hydropower uses the power of the river to spin a turbine, it converts 100% of the energy available into electricity, making it highly efficient and affordable.
  • 16,200 — Northwest dams generate 16,200 megawatt-hours each year. For comparison, that is roughly 16 times Seattle’s annual electricity use.
  • 85% — Hydropower accounts for 85% of the region’s clean energy and is available when people need it, including before the sun rises or when they need to heat their homes on cold winter nights.