Category: Power Marketing

California announces below normal snowpack levels

The California Department of Water Resources announced continuing dry winter conditions in its state-wide survey Feb. 1, which could impact the available water for Western’s Central Valley Project this summer.
 
“Water content in California’s mountain snowpack is far below normal for this time of year,” stated the department’s press release.
 
Overall, the average water content of California’s snowpack was 37 percent of normal for this date. For the CVP area, the relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 26 percent of the April 1 seasonal average for the northern Sierras, 20 percent for the central Sierras and 25 percent for the southern Sierras.
 
January is typically one of the wettest months, but with a lack of winter storms, state water managers have begun to express concerns about the need for more rain and snow.
 
“So far, we just haven’t received a decent number of winter storms,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin.
 
“Because last year was such an above-normal water year, starting water storage levels for Federal and state storage reservoirs are relatively higher than normal,” said Sierra Nevada Power Marketing Manager Sonja Anderson. This will help delay any affects to the power supply even if the snowpack doesn’t reach its average levels.
 
“As long as California receives normal to near normal precipitation levels for the rest of the water year, water and hydropower output for the Central Valley and state water projects would not be as detrimentally impacted as in past years,” said Anderson.
 
However, any reductions in the output of the Reclamation CVP power plants will raise the cost of Western’s CVP power to customers, which is marketed by the percent of hydropower available.

Reclamation Extends Comment Period on Glen Canyon Dam Operations EIS

After receiving a number of requests, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Park Service decided to extend the scoping period for a new Environmental Impact Statement related to the operation of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River from Dec. 30 to Jan. 31.

During the scoping period, agencies determine what factors to consider in the EIS and gather comments from the public to identify social, economic and environmental concerns and project alternatives to evaluate.

The EIS, which is jointly led by Reclamation and the Park Service, involves adopting a Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan for the Operation of Glen Canyon Dam.

The plan, the first comprehensive review of dam operations in 15 years, will ensure that regulated flows on the Colorado River meet the goals of supplying hydroelectricity and water for communities, agriculture and industry; protecting endangered species; and lessening the impact on downstream ecosystems, including the Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon.

Changes to current water flows will be evaluated as “alternatives” in the EIS.

For more information on the EIS or how to submit a comment, visit the project’s web site.

Pick-Sloan finalized 2021 Power Marketing Initiative

Western has a long history of serving and working with customers, including on its power marketing plans. In our Upper Great Plains Region, we’ve followed our current marketing plan since 1985, providing power to firm electric service customers throughout the six-state marketing area. But with the current marketing plan set to expire in nine years, Western’s UGP office took a look at how to market long-term firm hydroelectric resources beyond 2020.

In sum, the 2021 power marketing initiative, finalized Nov. 16 and effective Dec. 16, extended the current Marketing Plan, with amendments to two key marketing plan principles:

  1. Lengthening contract term to 30 years. A 30-year contract term provides firm electric service customers greater resource certainty and cost control compared to the current 20-year contract term. In general, a 30-year contract term strikes a balance between customers’ need for stability in resource planning and cost control and Western’s need for flexibility.
  2. Providing 1-percent resource pools every 10 years. The 2021 PMI will provide for resource pools of up to one percent of the marketable resource under contract at the time for eligible new preference entities beginning Jan. 1, 2021 and again every 10 years, specifically in January 2031 and 2041. The resource pools allow Western to market allocations of firm power to eligible new preference entities, while promoting the most widespread use concept under Federal Reclamation Law.

The 2021 PMI action maintains allocations of the finite hydropower resources at existing allocation levels (reduced by up to one percent for each new resource pool in 2021, 2031 and 2041) for all firm power customers. The PMI was informally discussed with firm power customers last November, then a formal public process was initiated March 4 with the release of the proposed initiative. Western extended the comment period on the initiative to Sept. 6 in response to public comment and request. Read all of Western’s responses to comments received in the Nov. 16, 2011 Federal Register notice (pdf).

What’s next?
 With the power marketing initiative complete, Western intends to begin developing firm electric service contracts with customers for service beyond 2020.

Western wins APPA 2011 Annual Report Contest award

Ingenuity and creativity in copy, design, financial data, graphics and communicating the agency’s special story earned Western the American Public Power Association’s Award of Merit for Western’s Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report.

On Wednesday, Annual Report Project Manager Jennifer Neville accepted the award on behalf of Western during the APPA Customer Connections Conference in Savannah, Ga. “I feel honored that our efforts to support our customers and to communicate on a level that matches their style is being recognized,” Neville remarked. 

The APPA award is the first that Western’s annual reports have received. Neville believes that the report was selected due to its different visual look and style. “This is the first year that we have used a graphical, painted theme rather than photographs,” Neville explained. “Once we devised the theme, Roadmap for Renewable Energy, Graphical Designer, Grant Kuhn, came up with designs, and this one was the clear choice by Senior Managers.”

Read more on Western’s website.

New process save linemen time

Helicopter assists DSW linemen with insulator change.

Desert Southwest linemen show us an example of an insulator change using an N619DE helicopter. This is a relatively new work process that began early this year. It allows repairs like this to be completed very quickly resulting in shorter outage times and much less cost compared to conventional methods such as bringing in a bucket truck. All required tools and hardware are also flown into the structure tower.

DSW linemen installing new insulator

The first step is the helicopter removes the old insulator from its cradle. The pilot then flies in the new insulator and sets the end of it onto the cradle of the old insulator. The linemen guide the new insulator horizontally into the cradle as the pilot lowers it down. The linemen then attach the insulator to hardware and conductor.

Western extends comment period for 2021 Power Marketing Initiative

Western’s Upper Great Plains Region published the proposed 2021 Power Marketing Initiative in the Federal Register notice on March 4, 2011. Western received a comment requesting additional time to submit comments on the proposed 2021 PMI and re-opened the written comment period for the proposed 2021 PMI until Sept. 6, 2011.

Western’s firm electric service contracts associated with the current marketing plan will expire Dec. 31, 2011. This proposed 2021 PMI provides the basis for marketing the long-term firm hydroelectric resources of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program—Eastern Division beyond 2020.

Entities interested in commenting on the proposed 2021 PMI must submit written comments to:

Robert J. Harris, Regional Manager
Upper Great Plains Region
Western Area Power Administration
2900 4th Avenue North
Billings, MT 59101–1266

Western must receive written comments by 4 p.m., MDT, on Sept. 6. Comments may also be faxed to 406-255–2900 or e-mailed to UGP2021@wapa.gov.

Western will prepare and publish the final 2021 PMI in the Federal Register after all public comments on the proposed 2021 PMI are considered.

Learn more about the rate process in the Federal Register notice (pdf).

Glen Canyon Dam study to help develop long-term operation plan

There are many competing needs in a river system for water. From farming irrigation and recreational activities (like boating and fishing) to environmental protection and hydropower production, these needs can be hard to prioritize and manage.

 To address operations on the Colorado River, the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation are developing a new Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan for Glen Canyon Dam.

 As part of the development process, the agencies will co-lead a draft environmental impact statement and public scoping process to evaluate operation alternatives and receive public comments, respectively.

Impact on hydropower production

The resulting plan could change hydropower generation output, which is marketed by Western’s Colorado River Storage Project Management Center, and possibly implement a Recovery Implementation Program for endangered fish species below Glen Canyon Dam.

According to a notice of intent in the July 6 Federal Register, the comprehensive review of dam operations – the first since 1995 – “will provide a framework for adaptively managing Glen Canyon Dam over the next 15 to 20 years consistent with the [Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992] and other provisions of applicable Federal law.”

“We need to make use of the latest science to develop and implement a structured, long-term management plan for the Glen Canyon Dam that adheres to the Law of the River, respects the interests of the tribal nations, and sustains the health of the Grand Canyon and the communities that depend on its water, consistent with the Grand Canyon Protection Act,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a July 5 press release.

Between the dam’s completion in 1963 and 1990, dam operations strove to maximize hydropower generation. However, increasing environmental concerns of dam operations on downstream resources prompted the government to pass the GCPA, which directed DOI to conduct a study to minimize the impact of dam operations.

Following the study, a Record of Decision Oct. 9, 1996 from the Bureau implemented the current Modified Low Fluctuating Flow Alternative used today at the dam. In 1997, the Secretary of Interior adopted operating criteria for Glen Canyon Dam (62 FR 9447).

Purchasing credits to support renewable energy goals

Federal agencies continue to strive toward generating 80 percent of their electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. Supporting this effort are the sale and purchase transactions of Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs.

Currently, Western’s Upper Great Plains Region is looking to purchase RECs, also known as “green tags,” for several Federal agencies through two different requests for proposals, including:

  • A joint request for 315,000 megawatt-hours of RECs over six years for DOE’s Richland Operations and Berkeley Site offices, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Program. Bids due by July 1.
  • A request for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to provide 3,000 MWhs of RECs per year to its Golden Field Office Research Support facility and 629 MWhs of RECs per year to replace solar energy NREL sold to Xcel Energy. Bids due by July 8.

All offers must be for firm, fixed, per-MWh unit prices for each year of the contract term. Once bids have been received, Upper Great Plains will select proposals based on best value.

For more information about the request for proposals, visit Upper Great Plains Power Marketing for RECs website.

Boulder Canyon Project remarketing comment period extended

After receiving feedback from customers and Congress, Western extended the comment period for certain proposals related to the Boulder Canyon Project Post-2017 remarketing effort to Sept. 1. The extension also postponed applying BCP’s Power Marketing Initiative and implementing 30-year contracts until Dec. 31.

“This extension provides additional time for on-going legislative activities, as well as additional opportunity for interested parties, including Native American Tribes, to consult with Western and comment on the proposals,” said Darrick Moe, Western’s Desert Southwest regional manager, at the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power hearing on S. 201, S. 333, S. 334, S. 419, S. 499, S. 519 and S. 808 May 19.

Western published the Application of the Energy Planning and Management Program Power Marketing Initiative to the Boulder Canyon Project notice in the Federal Register May 24, 2011, announcing the change and scheduling additional forums for feedback.

The FRN proposes Western be responsible for remarketing the firm power from Hoover Dam as an internal administrative process.

“This has the advantage of engaging in far more detailed discussions and negotiations than can be addressed by Congress, but with the drawback of unaccountability to taxpayers and ratepayers, potential lawsuits and re-igniting conflicts between the affected states,” said Congressman Tom McClintock, House Water and Power Subcommittee chairman, at the House Subcommittee on Water and Power Oversight Hearing on “Protecting Federal Hydropower Investments in the West: A Stakeholders Perspective” May 4.

Congress looks to amend Hoover Act

In the meantime, bills under debate in the House and Senate propose amending the Hoover Power Plant Act of 1984 to allocate dam power past 2017.

The bills would allocate power at cost-based rates for the project customers, with five percent set aside for new customers. It also proposes 50-year contracts to match up with the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, a 50-year non-Federal/Federal partnership designed to balance use of the water resource and compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

The legislation mostly matches Western’s FRN with a few notable exceptions, including: 

  • Different authority for remarketing
  • 50-year contracts
  • Omitting setting aside 30 megawatts for use as reserve if Western needs to balance power across its Desert Southwest projects

If passed, the law would eliminate the need for Western’s action under the FRN.

Free transmission workshop

Western Area Power Administration invites its customers, electric utilities, tribes, generation and transmission developers, State and Federal agencies to attend a FREE workshop about meeting the transmission challenges in the Rocky Mountain region.  

The workshop includes an overview of Western’s RM transmission planning and services and an opportunity for open discussion on overcoming transmission challenges in the region.  

You must register by June 17, 2011.

More information and the agenda is available on Western’s Rocky Mountain Region’s website