I am honored to serve as the 16th administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration, a role I proudly accepted in January. During my 29-year tenure at BPA, I have worked at nearly every level of the agency in support of its effort to provide the Pacific Northwest clean, flexible, carbon-free power and a reliable and resilient transmission grid.
My goal as administrator is to continue leveraging BPA’s assets to work toward the goals of modernizing and adding flexibility to the power grid, sustaining a highly reliable system, boosting the use of clean energy and combating climate change. The hydropower generated by the Federal Columbia River Power System plays such a critical role in the U.S. power system, as both a source of renewable, affordable energy and as a firm, flexible resource that ensures the reliability of the grid. I plan to keep collaborating with colleagues and talking to customers to ensure BPA remains on the forefront of this changing industry.
Bonneville is unique in that it is a federal entity that is not taxpayer-funded and has no shareholders. BPA recovers all of its costs from the cost-based rates we charge for wholesale power, which comes primarily from 31 federal hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin, and for the transmission services we provide across more than 15,000 miles of high-voltage lines. For more than eight decades, this cost-based model has allowed BPA to offer affordable power and transmission services that drive the region’s economy. BPA and its stakeholders must continue to work collaboratively to ensure Bonneville can support the Pacific Northwest with competitive, clean, reliable power and transmission services as we also support the region’s efforts to address climate change.
As the devastating impacts of climate change bear down on us, many national and state policies are being adopted or are under consideration to achieve a low-carbon energy future. BPA is an active participant in these conversations. Part of the equation is ensuring resource adequacy — that is, having enough generation to meet peak demand in the region as it continues to reduce fossil fuels and add cleaner, intermittent power resources.
The Pacific Northwest’s recent winter storm was a reminder that federal hydropower is a highly reliable, clean and flexible renewable power source that helps keep the lights on during extreme weather events. The four Lower Snake River dams, for example, played a major role in supporting BPA’s operations, allowing us to meet higher demand for electricity during the storm. The federal hydropower system is the Pacific Northwest’s biggest source of clean energy. BPA will help policymakers evaluate the vital role of clean hydropower in the fight against climate change and assess the effects of emerging clean energy policies on regional utilities and their customers.
Bonneville will also continue to engage in discussions about the challenges facing the region’s fish and wildlife. Climate change will undoubtedly amplify these challenges. For more than 40 years, Bonneville has worked with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, federal partners, Northwest tribes, and state fish and wildlife managers to mitigate the impacts of the federal dams on the region’s fish and wildlife species. We are proud of this work and are already building a better understanding about how climate change is affecting these important efforts.
Bonneville has a critical role in preserving the cultural resources and economic benefits of the Columbia River Basin for the region. I appreciate the profound connection of Northwest tribes to the Columbia Basin’s natural resources and enthusiastically embrace tribal input regarding management of these resources. We are committed to working with tribes and other partners to find durable solutions that serve the diverse and evolving needs of the Pacific Northwest.
Bonneville will only be successful in its endeavors if it is able to remain competitive in a rapidly changing electric-utility environment. We are committed to exploring and potentially participating in new and conceptual West-wide markets to advance our competitiveness. Smart investments to modernize our transmission system and adopting alternative, non-wires approaches to system expansion in lieu of building new transmission lines will also ensure we are well-positioned to capture system efficiencies, lower costs and potentially gain new revenue opportunities. Non-wires approaches include things like energy efficiency or technologies to adjust power consumption on the user’s end during times of lower power demand.
Bonneville, working closely with our electric utility customers, has a strong tradition of ensuring that our systems are reliable and safe. We will need to be vigilant given the impacts of a changing climate and will need to continue to have the financial capital to ensure our facilities are resilient.
We are in the early stages of discussing new, long-term power contracts with our public power utility customers to replace current contracts expiring in 2028. The wholesale rate we charge Pacific Northwest consumer-owned utilities has stabilized in recent years, thanks to strict cost-discipline that has solidified our financial position, which is good for the region, our electric utility customers, and the communities and businesses they serve. I look forward to working with our public-power customers and regional constituents to preserve our low-cost power service for decades to come.
I am confident that our efforts to address climate change and competitiveness in our transmission and power services will help bolster the region’s economy. Our commitment to working collaboratively on these issues will ensure BPA maintains a resilient and reliable power and transmission system for the Pacific Northwest’s clean-energy future.