Category: General

July 12 kickoff meeting for ‘Defining the future’

Western and DOE are hosting a webinar to kick off the public involvement and stakeholder process in our “Defining the Future” Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to achieve a more secure and sustainable electric sector in the United States.

Already Western has publicized it’s progress toward the objectives in Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu’s memo to the power marketing administrations.

Now during the webinar, participants can see the workshop and listening session formats, directions on how to access read-ahead material, a preview of information that will be presented during the workshops and a summary of the process for stakeholder participation during workshops and listening sessions.

So join us for:

Pre-workshop Webinar: “Defining the Future” Initiative
Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 1 p.m. (EDT)
Register for the webinar online

Western “defines the future”

Western recently published new webpages to publicize progress toward the objectives in Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu’s March 16 memo to the power marketing administrations.

The webpages advertise public involvement opportunities, including stakeholder meetings, and show how Western is progressing toward meeting the memo’s objectives.

While Western calls the section “Defining the future,” the agency remains committed to providing reliable, cost-based electric service to its preference power customers. The objectives in the PMA memo only call for Western’s leadership in “transforming our electric system to the 21st century to ensure our nation remains competitive in a global economy,” as Secretary Chu stated in his May 30 blog post.

“[Western] has an enormous opportunity to assume a leadership role in helping prevent future blackouts by making the organizational and operational changes necessary to enhance overall system operations and planning,” he added.

Be sure to check out the pages regularly as they will be frequently updated with more information through the end of the year.

Southline project scoping period extended to July 5

As a result of numerous requests, the Bureau of Land Management is extended the scoping period for the proposed Southline Transmission Line Project. The scoping period, which was scheduled to end June 4, has been extended to end July 5. Western is a co-lead agency on the environmental impact statement.

The Southline Transmission Project would collect and deliver electricity across southern New Mexico and southern Arizona, relieving congestion, strengthening the existing electrical system and improving transmission access for local renewable and other energy sources.

Learn more about the project on BLM’s webpage.

Energy Secretary elaborates on PMA memo

Today, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu published on the Department of Energy blog about the PMA memo he released March 16. In it, he further describes what the memo is intended to do and the next steps Western will take in gathering stakeholder input.

“Earlier this year, I called on our Nation’s Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) to help lead the 21st century transformation of our nation’s electricity sector to better protect our economic and national security. As this process gets underway, the Department of Energy will work in close collaboration with each PMA to solicit the critical on-the-ground input vital to achieving this goal in the best manner possible. I look forward to working with all interested parties in every PMA region to meet this shared objective,” said Secretary Chu.

Click to read the entire blog post.

Tribal webinar to discuss today’s energy needs, yesterday’s grid

Western Area Power Administration, the U.S. DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the DOE Tribal Energy Program are offering a free, informative webinar and discussion May 30 on how utilities’ generation portfolios are changing, often faster than the grid infrastructure that supports it, and the challenges currently being faced to integrate new generation and demand (load) response technologies into a grid that was designed to operate a different way.

There is no charge to attend the webinar; however, you must register to participate.

Tribal utility managers and resource engineers will hear information on (1) key findings in the MIT Energy Initiative Report on the changes needed in the U.S. transmission grid to handle expected challenges such as the influx of electric cars and wind and solar generation and (2) the Western Grid Group’s Clean Energy Vision Project, which charts a sustained, orderly transition from the carbon intensive electricity system of today to a cleaner, smarter and healthier electricity system of the future.

The webinar is chaired by Jay Caspary, with Southwest Power Pool and on assignment to the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. The two speakers are Dr. Richard Schmalensee and Dr. Carl Linvill.

Dr. Schmalensee is the Director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Dr. Schmalensee was co-chair of the recent MIT Energy Initiative report on The Future of the Electric Grid. Dr. Linvill is Director of Integrated Energy Analysis and Planning with Aspen Environmental Group and a member of the Western Grid Group. He is a major contributor to the Clean Energy Vision Project.

For more information on this and the other tribal webinars, visit http://www.repartners.org/#tribeseries.

California releases results from fifth and final snowpack survey

The California Department of Water Resources announced the results from its fifth and final snowpack survey May 1. The survey confirmed the snowpack’s low water content, which will affect water and power deliveries in California this year.

Overall, the average water content of California’s snowpack was 40 percent of normal. The relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, from which Western’s Central Valley Project relies on to fill reservoirs and generate hydropower, was 70 percent of normal for the northern Sierras, 35 percent of normal for the central Sierras and 20 percent of normal for the southern Sierras.

Last year’s snowpack water content state-wide was 190 percent of normal by this time, which will reduce the impact of the scarce snowpack this year.

“The impact of a below-normal water year has been somewhat mitigated by above-average reservoir storage levels due to unusually wet conditions during the 2010-2011 operating season,” said Sierra Nevada Power Marketer Sonja Anderson.

However, operators of both the state and Federal water projects have already announced reduced water and power deliveries for the upcoming year, including from Western’s Central Valley Project.

Hoover Dam Bypass: An award-winning bridge

The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge was honored this week with the American Society of Civil Engineer’s 2012 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement award March 22. At nearly 900 feet above the Colorado River and 1,900 feet long, the Hoover Dam Bypass helps to protect the security of the dam by removing through traffic from US 93. The structure was constructed in a harsh environment where temperatures reached triple digits during the day. The structure is the highest and longest arch concrete bridge in the Western hemisphere and features the world’s tallest concrete columns.

The project was recognized not only as a significant contribution to both the civil engineering profession and society as a whole but also emphasized environmental and cultural stewardship. The highway underpasses were built for endangered desert bighorn sheep, native plants in the construction corridor were preserved and replaced, and Native American cultural properties adjacent to the site were protected.

Western staff joined with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service and the states of Arizona and Nevada to build the bridge across the Colorado River, bypassing the highway that spans the crest of Hoover Dam.

Read more about the OCEA award and Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge at the ASCE’s news release.

Large hydro projects could apply to California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard

In February, the California legislature introduced Assembly Bill 1771 Renewable energy resources: hydroelectric generation, which, if enacted, would revise what size hydropower plant can contribute to an energy service provider’s renewable portfolio standard and how many megawatts can be counted.

Currently, only small hydropower plants qualify to be used as a renewable energy source under California’s 33-percent RPS requirement, and the maximum hydropower contribution is 30 megawatts. 

If enacted in its present form, the hydropower plant size and megawatt limits would be eliminated, which could increase interest in Western’s Sierra Nevada region’s Central Valley Project. The CVP’s 11 hydropower plants produced 5,369 gigawatt-hours in Fiscal Year 2011 for preference power customers in California.  

The bill is tentatively scheduled to be heard in committee March 22.

Western tribal customers awarded DOE funding for clean energy projects

The Department of Energy announced its next round of tribal energy development projects, Feb. 16.  Of the 19 clean energy projects chosen to receive more than $6.5 million, 10 involve Western tribal customers.

These DOE-selected projects will allow Native American tribes to advance clean energy within their communities by assessing local energy resources, developing renewable energy projects and deploying clean energy technologies. These projects will help tribal communities across the country save money and create new job and business opportunities.

The projects selected for negotiation of award fall into three areas:

  • Feasibility studies – Thirteen projects will receive $3.6 million to assess the technical and economic viability of developing renewable energy resources on tribal lands to generate utility-scale power or installing renewable energy systems to reduce energy use by 30 percent.For example, Western customer White Earth Reservation Tribal Council would use the funding to look at deploying a biogas/biomass-fired combined heat and power facility to generate 2.7 megawatts of electricity for tribal buildings, as well as for space and domestic water heating.
  • Renewable energy development – Four projects, including Western customer Jemez Pueblo’s project, will receive $1.7 million for pre-construction development activities.  Jemez Pueblo plans to use the funding to complete all remaining solar development activities for a 4-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility, which includes acquiring a power purchase agreement, completing site-related project requirements, such as site surveys and lease approval, and finalizing project financing.
  • Installation– Two projects will receive $1.3 million to deploy renewable energy technologies to convert waste and other biomass to energy. One of the two is another Jemez Pueblo project, where the tribe would install a cordwood-fired biomass energy system using locally available wood to heat the tribe’s visitor center. Once installed, the system will provide up to 90 percent of the facility’s heating needs.

See the DOE press release, the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the project descriptions.

Webinars provide opportunities

DOE and Western have taken a number of steps to support tribal energy development and empower tribal leaders to make informed decisions that promote community economic development.

Western has already held its fourth webinar in partnership with the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and the DOE Tribal Energy Program to promote tribal energy sufficiency. The next event will be March 28 where participants will learn more about interconnection and transmission service queues.

Western accelerates small business payments

Starting Feb. 1, Western offices in five states and serving customers in 15 states halved payment times to small businesses from 30 to 15 days.

“The new process is working well. Only the Accounts Payable office and purchasing approving officials were impacted,” said Corporate Services Office Fiscal Operations Manager Lynn Hahn. “To most employees involved in procurement or payment of invoices, the process is transparent.”

Western implemented the new process in response to a September 2011 Office of Management and Budget memo, which mandated agencies to accelerate payment dates to small business contractors 15 days after receiving the required documentation instead of the 30-day payment cycle under the Prompt Payment Act.

Check out more at Western’s Newsroom.