Module 3: Overview of WAPA

Module 3: Overview of WAPA


In the last module, we talked about regulation
of the electric grid. In this module, we will provide a brief overview
of WAPA. We will cover what WAPA is and what it does,
and who it fits into and has shaped the Western Interconnection. WAPA is a unique agency within the Department
of Energy. WAPA employees are guided by the mission to
market and deliver clean, renewable, reliable, cost-based federal hydroelectric power and
related services across the West. Our vision is to be a premier power marketing
and transmission organization. WAPA has nearly 700 wholesale customers and
provides power that serves approximately 40 million Americans in the West. WAPA is one of four PMAs, or power marketing
administrations, under DOE. Here is a graphical representation of all
of the Power Marketing Administrations. They are the Bonneville Power Administration
(or BPA), the Southeastern Power Administration (or SEPA), the Southwestern Power Administrations
(or SWPA), and the Western Area Power Administration (or WAPA). WAPA covers the largest geographical area
of all of the PMAs. It has four regions, one Management Center,
and it has a 15-state footprint. WAPA also has a large transmission system
and is one of the top ten largest transmission utilities in the country. WAPA has 3 business lines. 1) Providing federal hydropower and providing
firm electric service to its preference customers from 56 dams; 2) it provides transmission
services across its vast transmission system with over 17,000 miles of transmission lines
and it operates three balancing areas.; 3) it also manages the Transmission Infrastructure
Program, providing $3.25 billion in borrowing authority. As I mentioned, WAPA’s mission is market
and deliver clean, renewable, reliable, cost-based federal hydroelectric power and related services. And WAPA accomplishes this mission effectively
and efficiently by focusing on our strategic roadmap. This includes continually evolving our services
to meet the needs of our customers, developing and maintaining mutually beneficial partnerships,
and focusing on business, technology and organizational excellence. Although the other PMAs existed prior to 1977,
WAPA did not. And in 1977, is when WAPA was created, and
the responsibilities for transmitting and marketing generation from Bureau of Reclamation,
Army Corp of Engineers, and U.S. Boundary and Water Commission Dams were given to WAPA
with the Department of Energy Act of 1977. Although the organization is relatively new
the regulations that direct how WAPA markets and delivers power stretches back for quite
a ways; all the way to 1902, with the Reclamation Act. The Reclamation Act, created the Reclamation
Service, which was the precursor to the Bureau of Reclamation and allowed the federal government
to construct irrigation projects to be built in the West and be repaid by the farmers and
communities benefiting from them. The next major piece of legislation that occurred,
was the Reclamation Project Act of 1939 that established that these irrigation projects
had multiple uses, such as recreation, flood control, and important to us, the generation
of power and energy. It established the requirements for power
sales and the requirements for repayment. Then another important piece of legislation
came along in 1944, which was the Flood Control Act. This established that public entities, would
receive preference when allocating the power and energy generated at federal facilities. It also mandated that federal power should
be allocated “to encourage the most widespread use at the lowest possible rates to consumers
consistent with sound business principles.” Now that we have taken a quick look at some
of the regulations that have allowed WAPA to exist and guide its daily operations, now
let me tell you a little bit more about our customers. WAPA sells firm power to nearly 700 preference
customers across its four regions and one management center. WAPA has a requirement to market its power
and energy to public entities known as “preference customers.” Preference customers include
municipal utilities, cooperatives, irrigation districts, public utility districts, Native
American tribes and federal and state agencies and these entities have specific legal standing
that allows them the first option to purchase hydropower from WAPA. By giving preference to these types of entities,
WAPA has been able to provide low-cost, reliable, and renewable power to many communities across
the West and has been an extremely valuable asset to many rural communities. Due to the preference requirement of the 1939
Reclamation Act, communities across the West were given access to WAPA’s reasonably priced
electricity in places where investor-owned utilities found it not very profitable to
operate their businesses. For example, federal hydropower drives irrigation
motors in California’s Imperial Valley, keeps the lights on for the Fort Belknap Indian
Community in Montana, and powers the dining hall and dormitories at Kirtland Air Force
Base in New Mexico. The power that WAPA transmits across our vast
service area comes from federal hydroelectric dams on rivers across the central and western
United States. This system includes ten powerplants that
make up California’s Central Valley Project; 15 powerplants in the Colorado River watershed
including Hoover and Glen Canyon dams; eight on the main stem of the Missouri River operated
by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; plus another 20 powerplants on Missouri River tributaries. WAPA also markets the U.S. portion of power
from two plants on the Rio Grande that are owned and operated by the U.S. Boundary and
Water Commission; and power from Stampede Dam on the Little Truckee River in the High
Sierras. The generating agencies – Reclamation, the
Boundary and Water Commission and the Corps of Engineers’ still own and operate these
water projects, including the hydropower facilities, to provide flood control, navigation, irrigation,
fish and wildlife protection, recreation and municipal use. Another aspect of WAPA’s operations concerns
the amount of power we have available to sell. This is determined by how much water is available
for hydropower generation. Water availability can fluctuate a great deal
from year to year. When there is more capacity and more energy
to sell, we can sell the surplus. When less is available – such as during the
drought that has plagued much of the West and Great Plains – we purchase power or exchange
energy with other utilities to ensure we can meet contract commitments to our customers. The hydroelectric dams from which WAPA sells
power are grouped into separate projects for marketing and rate-setting purposes. These water projects in the West were originally
developed to make the arid region habitable by providing water for crops, cities and towns. Hydropower was an added benefit to these large-scale
water projects as a way to help the projects pay for themselves while providing energy
for economic development and growing rural populations. These multi-purpose water projects still form
the basis for WAPA’s power marketing operations. WAPA markets power under marketing plans specific
to each project. Each plan generally covers a 20-year period
and is developed through a public process when additions to generation capacity occur
(which is very rare) or when existing power sales contracts expire. Marketing plans specify the conditions for
when and how WAPA will sell power. Marketing plans lead to long-term contracts
to sell power to preference customers. The allocation criteria in the marketing plan
spell out who will receive federal hydropower. Basically, we deliver wholesale power to direct
suppliers. And WAPA provides only a portion of our customers’
total resource. It is not responsible for meeting the increasing
energy and power demands of local utility’s customers. And our local utility customers themselves
have the responsibility to meet load growth and supply their retail customers’ total
electric requirements. In the 21st century, WAPA has a vital role
in marketing and delivering low-cost, reliable federal hydropower that ultimately reaches
millions of homes and businesses. WAPA manages five control centers that balance
load and resources within their specific geographic areas. Power system operators work around the clock
in these locations to deliver power to where it’s needed and when it’s needed. WAPA also owns and operates alternating current-direct
current, or AC/DC, interties that connect the eastern and western US electricity grids. We are one of the few utilities that operates
in both interconnections. To ensure everyone has equal access to our
transmission system, we also provide open access through internet-based Open Access
Same Time Information Systems. WAPA plays a vital role in serving the West
with federal power. And because we operate in a competitive energy
industry, we’ll continue to focus on reliability and customer service to help our customers
keep the lights on throughout the western half of the country. This requires a lot of maintenance, but also
requires natural resource management, planning, collaboration and partnership. Although WAPA’s main service is providing
firm electric service to its preference customers, it also provided energy management and marketing
services; energy and resource planning; transmission service and interconnection services; and
ancillary and BA services. Transmission services is another important
service that WAPA provides. WAPAs transmission system was built to deliver
federal power to preference customers so delivering firm electric service to its preference customers
is the first duty of the transmission system, but in accomplishing this mission the full
transmission capacity of WAPA’s system is not utilized. The excess transmission capacity is sold to
other utilities. WAPA provides three types of transmission
services: 1) point-to-point, 2) network integration, and 3) ancillary services. We also provided transmission planning services
and Tariff administration. And another of the services that WAPA provides
that is important to the Western Interconnection is Balancing Authority services to help ensure
the generation, load, and interchange in its three Balancing Authority Areas area properly
balanced and system stability is maintained. Some of the BA services that WAPA provides,
things like regulation and frequency response, energy imbalance, and coordinating with the
regional reliability coordinator.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *