Public Power Announcements

Elliot Mainzer Announces Departure from BPA

Elliot Mainzer, who has served as administrator and CEO of the Bonneville Power Administration for the past seven years, will leave the agency at the end of August.

“Elliot has consistently reached out to hear customer concerns,” said Scott Corwin, executive director of NWPPA. “He has been a true partner in working with public power in the Northwest, and his approach and expertise should serve him very well at the CAISO.”

“It’s been a tremendous honor to serve as BPA administrator and CEO,” said Mainzer. “I would like to thank the U.S. Department of Energy, the BPA community, our customers, tribal, state and federal officials, members of the environmental community, and our other regional partners for collaborating with us to strengthen and modernize BPA and position the agency as an engine of economic prosperity and environmental sustainability for many years to come.”

“The department thanks Elliot for his dedicated service to BPA’s utility customers and the people of the Northwest,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “The region has benefited from his expertise, leadership and commitment to collaboration during an incredibly transformational time.”

Mainzer was sworn in as the 15th administrator in BPA’s 83-year history on February 20, 2014, after serving as acting administrator since July 2013. From day one, Mainzer prioritized taking care of the BPA workforce and building a healthier and stronger organizational culture, which he did by instituting safety as a core value and implementing a new executive structure, decision-making process and focusing on management excellence, diversity and inclusion. Under Mainzer’s leadership, BPA has achieved the strongest safety performance in the organization’s history.

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California ISO Appoints Elliot Mainzer New President and CEO

(August 6) The California Independent System Operator announced the appointment today of Elliot Mainzer as its new president and chief executive officer. He will succeed the retiring Steve Berberich on September 30, 2020.

The CAISO Board of Governors made its appointment following a highly competitive nationwide search. Berberich will remain in Folsom into October to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

Mainzer has served as administrator and CEO of the Bonneville Power Administration, based in Portland, Ore., for the past seven years. He was named acting administrator in July 2013 and appointed to a permanent position as administrator and CEO in January 2014. He has worked at BPA for 18 years.

“Elliot’s demonstrated success leading a large, complex power and transmission organization will serve CAISO, our customers and stakeholders well,” the CAISO Board of Governors said in a statement. “We are happy to have a leader so knowledgeable about integrating renewables and passionate about building on CAISO’s organizational strengths and momentum toward low-carbon electricity.”

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BPA Selects John Lahti as Vice President for Transmission Field Services

(July 27) The Bonneville Power Administration has announced the selection of John Lahti as its vice president of Transmission Field Services.

Lahti will lead roughly one-third of BPA’s workforce responsible for field operations, emergency response, and construction and maintenance of BPA’s 15,200 circuit miles of transmission lines in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.

“John is the right person at the right time to lead this vital component of BPA’s Transmission Services organization,” said BPA Chief Operating Officer John Hairston. “Transmission plays a critical role in the value that BPA provides to the region. John has shown himself to be highly effective in leading groups that are dedicated to preserving and expanding the availability of that transmission and doing so in a cost-effective manner.”

As manager of Construction and Maintenance Services, Lahti led a complex and sensitive reorganization in 2018 to create a more effective and streamlined process, assuring execution of the agency’s Transmission Services capital program on time and within budget. The plan consolidated build resources from across multiple work groups into a single organization in a span of six months, which resulted in greater resource visibility and project execution transparency. During his five-year tenure in Construction and Maintenance Services, Lahti managed an annual budget of more than $47 million and a multidisciplinary team of more than 220 professional, skilled crafts and trade employees.

“The bottom line is John Lahti delivers results and – just as important to me – he delivers those results safely,” said Richard Shaheen, the senior vice president for Transmission Services. “He played a critical role in partnering with our Safety organization to reduce recordable injuries and other key indicators of safety and human performance.”

Lahti began his new role on August 2.

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Latest Version of Chelan’s Current App Adds More Features for River, Lake Conditions

(August 5) You check the weather before heading to the hiking trail. And now you can check up-to-date lake and river information conditions before hitting the water. With the latest version of Chelan PUD’s (Wenatchee, Wash.) free Current app, you can pull up real-time data about local waterways right from your mobile device.

The newest release of Current delivers a boat launch feature that includes the launch status with water depth at the end of 16 ramps on the Columbia River and Lake Chelan. River and lake level maps also offer easy-to-view lists of key points of interest along these waterways. Additional river and lake information – including charts showing water levels, park locations, and safety tips – can be found on the PUD’s website under the Parks & Recreation tab.

Through the new app, the PUD helps ensure boaters and park users are better prepared so they can have safe and enjoyable visits, whether on shore or on the water. Chelan PUD encourages river and lake users to always check water levels before and during river recreation.

“Rivers are dynamic and our local conditions can change rapidly based on a number of factors, including the amount of water coming from upstream dams, power demand, and weather conditions,” said PUD Parks Manager Ryan Baker.

River conditions also can change regularly as hydropower output fluctuates to meet demands of the market. Roughly 80% of the PUD’s revenues come from sales into the wholesale market. That revenue provides the low rates enjoyed by local customer-owners.

The PUD is exploring other apps that will provide customers information to better plan their energy use. These will roll out in the next several years.

Find more information about the new Current app at www.chelanpud.org/app. The app is part of the PUD’s commitment in its latest strategic plan to embrace technology development that benefits its customer-owners.


NISC® Launches Additional Cybersecurity Offering to Help Members Address Vulnerabilities

(August 5) With malicious attacks on the rise and cybercriminals capitalizing on the uncertainty surrounding COVID, National Information Solutions Cooperative has added NISC CyberPatch to their existing NISC Cybersecurity Services suite of solutions to help independent telephone companies, electric cooperatives, and other public power entities defend themselves against ever-present cyber threats.

NISC CyberPatch, powered by Kaseya® VSA, is a comprehensive patch management system for both operating systems and third-party applications that will decrease the risk of a security breach while increasing staff efficiency.

“Quite often, the cybersecurity focus is on perimeter protection, spam filters, and network monitoring, leaving the often-overwhelming patching tasks neglected,” said NISC Vice President of Information Security & Risk Management Jeff Nelson. “This oversight can completely sabotage your overall cybersecurity plan.”

According to the Ponemon Institute, 57% of data breaches are attributed to poor patch management.

Completing operating system and third-party patches and updates are of incredible importance with today’s dynamic and ever-changing cybersecurity landscape – and the one vulnerability many are postponing or completely overlooking. With the growing sophistication of cybercriminals and malware attacks, the focus needs to shift to ensuring operating systems and applications are up to date with the latest fixes, or patches, to ensure the discovered vulnerabilities are secured – without business disruption and a major impact on your staff’s time.

NISC Cybersecurity Services offers of a complement of solutions to protect vital operational data:

  • NISC CyberAcademy – Online user awareness training and phishing simulation
  • NISC CyberDetect – Incident detection and incident response
  • NISC CyberProtect – Endpoint protection with 24/7 monitoring
  • NISC CyberDefense – Perimeter defense leveraging firewalls and report monitoring
  • NISC CyberScan – Vulnerability management with advanced scanning, reporting, tracking, and risk scoring
  • NISC CyberPatch – Comprehensive and flexible patch management, automation, and reporting

“Cyberattacks are always evolving and increasing in frequency and complexity, and our members look to us as their technology partner to ensure we are providing them with the tools they need to protect themselves,” said Nelson. “NISC Cybersecurity Services leverages what we ourselves have learned from implementing our own cybersecurity tools and put these resources directly into our members’ hands.”

National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) is an information technology organization that develops, implements, and supports software and hardware solutions for its members. Let us show you how NISC’s Cybersecurity Services offering can help you prevent, detect, and resolve threats to your organization’s reputation and bottom line. Visit www.cybersecurity.coop today to learn more or contact NISC at (866) 999.6472 or cybersecurity.sales@nisc.coop.


Lewis County PUD Transitions to Monthly Billing for All Customers

(August 4) Lewis County PUD (Chehalis, Wash.) is excited to announce that all PUD customers will transition to a monthly billing cycle before January 1, 2021. The permanent transition to monthly billing provides many benefits, including:

  • Lower bill amounts. More frequent billing lowers the amount owing at any one time.
  • More efficient household budgeting.Lewis County PUD bills will now align with other utility bills making budgeting more consistent.
  • More information about your electricity usage.Monitoring your usage can help you control utility costs and save money.
  • Reduced customer arrearages. Customers will no longer be faced with a two-month billing period. Monthly billing allows the PUD to work with customers experiencing hardship more quickly and effectively.

“Monthly billing is the industry standard; Lewis County PUD is one of the few power utilities that hasn’t transitioned to monthly billing, until now. But more important than aligning with other utilities, monthly billing is better for all involved—the PUD and most importantly our customers,” said Jennifer Bush, customer service manager for Lewis County PUD.

The transition to monthly billing will occur automatically for customers sometime between August 10, 2020, and December 31, 2020. This five-month window is to allow the PUD to incrementally transition its 33,000 customers to monthly billing, rather than all at once. Customers won’t need to take any action to initiate the monthly billing.

For more information, visit the PUD’s website at www.lcpud.org.


Chelan PUD Breaks Ground on New Service Center at Old Station

Chelan PUD Commissioner Garry Arseneault and General Manager Steve Wright discuss plans for the future Service Center at the Olds Station site. Photo by Cameron Deamer-Phillips, Chelan PUD.

(August 4) One by one, but together in spirit, Chelan PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) commissioners dug the first shovelfuls of earth at Olds Station, future home of the PUD’s comprehensive service center. Their audience: a video camera to ensure that the important milestone was captured. The historic event occurred on Facebook on August 5.

“Today’s groundbreaking sets us on a path forward to greater efficiency and customer service so future generations of Chelan County residents will continue reaping the benefits of low-cost hydropower,” said Board President Garry Arseneault.

After years of careful study, the board of commissioners determined that a centralized facility would provide the best value and experience for the most people over the next 50 to 100 years. The 19-acre campus will combine most of the PUD’s non-hydro services, including Customer Service, Warehouse, Fish and Wildlife, and Customer Energy Solutions.

“As the PUD studied its options, it became clear that a consolidated service center was the least-cost option,” Arseneault said. “Our vision is for the next 50 years. We make these decisions based on the benefits to customer-owners for the long term.”

The Olds Station site is the geographic center of Chelan County, which will help reduce response times and operational costs. The centralized location also creates one convenient stop where customer-owners can pay bills, apply for new services, and meet with staff and commissioners.

Construction is slated through 2022, with a gradual move-in planned for late 2022 or early 2023. About 78% of the first-phase work was awarded to local contractors. Sales tax payments associated with the nearly $140 million project will also provide a local economic boost.

Project plans also include a trail connection to the Apple Capital Loop Trail and improved public access to the Wenatchee River.

The new service center will replace several aging PUD facilities, including its Fifth Street headquarters built in 1955. The PUD is working with the City, Regional Port Authority, Wenatchee Valley Chamber, Wenatchee Downtown Association, and a citizen advisory committee to explore future development of the 7.5-acre downtown campus.


Independent Study Puts a Value on Rooftop Solar Power in Sacramento

(August 3) Energy + Environmental Economics—a leading energy consulting firm commissioned by SMUD to study the value of solar in its service territory—released an independent study that evaluated the true value of solar in the Sacramento, Calif., area.

The study evaluated the value of solar; the value of solar plus storage when managed by SMUD or a customer; and the value of the societal benefits derived from solar power. The study was commissioned to help inform SMUD’s solar pricing structure moving forward based on valuation criteria from the rooftop solar industry, environmentalists, economists, and community members.

“Our independent analysis carefully evaluated the benefits and costs of customer solar and storage systems to SMUD’s entire customer base under its current Net Energy Metering program,” said Arne Olson, senior partner at Energy + Environmental Economics. “While net metered solar provides benefits, the study shows that it causes electric rates to increase for other customers. Moreover, most of the environmental benefits associated with customer solar can be achieved much more cost-effectively with other means, such as utility-scale solar.”

The study found that the value of solar is 7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2020 and steadily declines through 2030, as additional solar hits the market. SMUD currently pays its solar customers retail rates for their solar generation (12 cents per kWh on average) creating a cost shift to non-solar customers in the amount of $25 to $41 million annually. This amounts to $26 to $45 per customer, per year and disproportionately impacts low-income customers. That will continue to grow exponentially to $94 million or $92 per customer, per year by 2030 if not addressed.

“Our goal is to deliver the cleanest energy at the most cost-effective rate to our customers,” said SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard. “To do that, we must find a solution that is fair and equitable to both our rooftop and non-solar customers. We will continue conversations with a broad range of stakeholders in the coming months as we work toward a comprehensive solution that’s fair to all of our customers.”

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Mason PUD 1 Celebrates Community Solar II Project

(July 31) Mason County PUD No. 1 unveiled its second community solar project at a drive-in ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, July 28, at the PUD’s new warehouse in Potlatch, Wash. After construction delays and rescheduling due to the pandemic, persistence paid off as over two dozen customers, community members, and employees came together under proper safety guidelines to celebrate the new solar array.

“It was difficult trying to navigate around the Safe Start guidelines to hold a ribbon-cutting event where our customers felt safe to participate,” said Julie Gray, project manager for the PUD’s solar program. “After almost cancelling again, we floated the idea of having a drive-in style ribbon-cutting where people could come to the campus to see their solar project from their vehicles. I was surprised at how many of them immediately replied that they loved the idea, so we made it happen.”

The Community Solar II project was developed by customer request.

“Washington state PUDs are longstanding leaders in clean energy, with many of us having fuel mixes that are already 95-98% carbon free. Despite the reduction in state incentives for community and rooftop solar, we are still getting a strong interest from our customer base for solar and other renewable energy projects, which motivates us to make these opportunities available for our ratepayers,” said PUD 1 General Manager Kristin Masteller.

In addition to the two community solar projects, and three privately owned hydroelectric projects on the PUD 1 system, the District also has invested in electric vehicle charging at the PUD and has partnered with local businesses and the Skokomish Tribe to expand it through the PUD’s service area.

Solar panels are predicted to produce energy for approximately 20 years. The PUD estimates that with the state incentive that runs through 2028, and the anticipated output from the array, customers who purchased units of the project, at $100 per unit, should see a return on their investment in 15-18 years.

“While our first solar project did have a much higher incentive payment, it also produced enough energy to pay for itself in four years, where we were initially estimating 7-10 years,” said Gray. “It’s possible that this project could exceed our generation estimates, too, and shorten that payback time. From then on, it’s income earned through energy credits on customers’ bills for the rest of the life of the project.”

At over 50 kilowatts, this project is more than twice the size of the PUD’s first solar project in 2016. In addition to the 965 units purchased by 41 customers, 500 units were paid for with a $50,000 grant from Bonneville Environmental Foundation to fund a low-income program.

“BEF has been an amazing renewable energy partner for the PUD. This is the second project we’ve worked on with them and we have another in the pipeline later this year,” said Masteller. “Their grant enabled us to enroll 10 low-income households in the program and those customers will receive the solar benefits until 2024, when we will draw 10 new participants. Over the life of the system, we should see up to 50 low-income households go through this program over the next 20 years. It’s an innovative way to ensure people at all income levels can take part in clean energy projects.”

Gray reported that between its start in May through June 30, the array had already produced 14,193 kilowatt-hours. Participants should receive their first incentive payment in coming weeks.

The generation for both projects can be tracked online at solar.mason-pud1.org.


Grays Harbor PUD Says Columbia River EIS “Will Allow Utilities to Keep the Lights On”

(July 31) The Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) has released the following statement of the release of the final Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which recognizes the value of hydropower to the Pacific Northwest and the Lower Snake River Dams:

“Four years of testimony from stakeholders, examination of the best science available, and consideration of opinions from every conceivable position have led to the this document, which recognizes the value of the hydroelectric system to the Pacific Northwest, the importance of the Lower Snake River dams to that system, and offers a compromise solution that addresses the natural environment and the needs of our region.

“The EIS directly addresses the false claims that the Lower Snake River Dams are obsolete, not critical to the regions energy system and can be easily removed. The EIS also recognizes the impacts that the hydroelectric system has on salmon runs, but offers a reasonable, data-backed compromise solution of increased spill and mitigation efforts that will aid in salmon recovery while allowing utilities to keep the lights on throughout the region.

“While the increased spill to aid in fish migration recommended in the final document may mean a decrease in energy production and an increase in Bonneville Power Administration wholesale rates, the impacts of those concessions are far less than the devastating impacts that would come with the removal of the four Lower Snake River Dams. The dams are a critical component not only of the regions energy system, but also to surrounding areas economic, recreational, and agricultural well-being.

“The Grays Harbor PUD thanks the Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and the Bureau of Reclamation for their diligent work on this important subject and for the inclusive nature of the EIS process which allowed the opinions of all parties to shape a reasonable and acceptable path forward.”


Lewis County PUD Board of Commissioners Adopts 10-Year Strategic Plan

(July 31) At the July 7 regular meeting of the Lewis County PUD (Chehalis, Wash.) Board of Commissioners, the commission unanimously adopted a 10-year strategic plan for the PUD. The 16-page plan is a culmination of a thorough planning process that began in February 2020.

“In addition to reaffirming the important values of leadership, teamwork, respect, communication, and accountability, this plan also establishes a roadmap of thoughtful investments needed to maintain safe, reliable, and sustainably sourced utilities for generations of customers,” said Ben Kostick, District 1 commissioner of Lewis County PUD.

Several important projects and initiatives are identified in the plan that will improve the quality of life for PUD customers. Examples include substation rehabilitations, deployment of broadband Internet, LED streetlights, advanced metering, and recreational enhancements. The plan includes descriptions of all identified projects and estimated project costs.

“This plan embodies a commitment to rehabilitating aging parts of our core electric infrastructure which our customers rely on 24 hours a day, every day of the year,” said Jeff Shupe, engineering manager for Lewis County PUD. Many of the PUD’s substations are approaching 50 years of age, replacement parts are increasingly difficult to procure, and a major substation failure could cause an extended outage. A focus of the strategic plan is to mitigate the hazards of aging infrastructure, including worker safety and reliable electric service to customers.

The strategic plan is available at www.lcpud.org.


NWRP Commends Thorough and Holistic EIS Process

(July 31) Northwest RiverPartners today welcomed the much anticipated Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) released by federal action agencies as part of the Columbia River System Operations process.

Developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the US Bureau of Reclamation, with input from tribal nations and Northwest states, the FEIS provides a comprehensive, final analysis of the four lower Snake River dams (LSRD). It balances the needs of salmon, power supply, and social welfare in the Pacific Northwest.

The report concluded that the best option for fulfilling the multiple objectives of improving salmonid survival, providing a reliable electric grid, and reaching the Northwest’s clean energy future is to maintain the four LSRD with adjusted operations.

Importantly, the FEIS acknowledges the role of the LSRD as a critical source of affordable and dependable energy for the Northwest and reiterates that without the LSRD, the Northwest would be much more susceptible to energy shortages and regional blackouts.

The socio-economic consequences to communities of losing the LSRD would have been dire. The FEIS estimates that the cost of replacing the LSRD with other renewable energy sources backed up with batteries would have approached $800 million per year. That roughly equates to a 25% increase in electricity bills for millions of Northwest residents and businesses.

Exorbitant electricity bills would create economic chaos at a time when we are already reeling from a global pandemic, a homelessness crisis, and an affordable housing shortage.

Achieving a sustainable future requires that we embrace the needs of all communities and, in particular, the escalating plight of our most vulnerable: Native American tribes, communities of color, immigrant communities, and low-income families.

Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization focused on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower system betters communities and the natural environment, and we encourage science-based solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and thrive. For more information, visit http://nwriverpartners.org.

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SVP Offering Building Operator Certification Training Scholarships

(July 30) Silicon Valley Power is pleased to announce our Building Operator Certification Training Scholarship program. Applicants must meet all eligibility criteria for the Building Operator Certification (BOC) training program as outlined on its website and must operate a qualifying facility within the Santa Clara, Calif., city limits, receiving electricity from Silicon Valley Power. Participants must commit to completing the training program and may not have previously enrolled in the same training program provided by Silicon Valley Power. Participants who have preciously achieved Level I certification may apply for a scholarship for the Level II certification.

Customers interested in applying for the scholarship must fill out the attached scholarship application and the appropriate BOC application, and submit both to mmedeiros@svpower.com. Include the subject line “BOC Scholarship Application” in your email. Applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis and will be limited to one person per organization training unless all scholarships are not awarded. In the event that additional scholarships remain, they will be granted to a second attendee from an organization in the order in which they are received.

All courses are being held online due to the current stay-at-home order.

For details on the BOC training program and eligibility requirements, please visit https://www.theboc.info/building-operator-training/boc-eligibility.

 


Member Responses to COVID-19

Thank you to all of our NWPPA members who have shared their policies and practices concerning COVID-19. The following is a clearinghouse of the news releases we have received this past week. We are sharing these here for your information and as a resource for anyone looking to also implement a similar practice. Please send any releases or office updates to brenda@nwppa.org so we can continue to disseminate this information to our valued membership. For an ongoing list of member utility responses, visit https://www.nwppa.org/utility-responses-to-covid-19/.

Oregon

EWEB to Offer $200,000 in Assistance Funding in August for Customers Impacted by the Pandemic

(July 30) The Eugene Water & Electric Board will double the amount of funding available in August for its bill assistance programs; this is the fourth time since April the utility has increased funding to support customers during the pandemic

So far in 2020, EWEB has provided more than $1.2 million in bill assistance to 4,560 customers. During the same period in 2019, EWEB provided $450,000 in assistance to 2,240 customers. The utility initially budgeted $100,000 for August, but then decided to double that amount to provide more relief for assistance programs which became available on August 3. In August 2019, by comparison, EWEB distributed $60,750 in bill assistance.

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Washington

Rock Island: A World of Connection

(July 31) Rock Island and OPALCO (Eastsound, Wash.) have once again partnered up to help islanders in need during the pandemic. OPALCO has expanded its Energy Assist program to provide monthly bill credits to residential and commercial members in need, and Rock Island offers a $25/month bill credit for customers on OPALCO’s Energy Assist Program (show your power bill to get the credit). This spring, Rock Island applied for a USDA Distance Learning Grant to install remote-learning facilities to support teachers and share teaching resources in every middle- and high-school classroom in SJC. Grant awards will be announced at year end. Currently, more than 100 households county-wide are connected to free internet service for online schooling through Rock Island’s Access Education program.

The collective investment of partners and subscribers in this project has already significantly moved our community toward true world connectivity, but the work isn’t done until all islanders can enjoy a success story. What services do you need to protect your family, your business, or your health? For a state-of-the-art fiber connection, go to rockisland.com/getfiber to fill out the online fiber request form. You can now finance a fiber connection on your OPALCO bill through our Switch It Up! program. If you are a subscriber and are experiencing any difficulties, please reach out to the support team at support@rockisland.com.

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Associate Members

COVID-19 Likely to Accelerate Energy Transition in the Power Sector 

(July 30) The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered electricity consumption patterns, shifting energy supply and demand curves that may lead to structural changes in the U.S. power sector sooner than previously expected.

According to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division, the recent load recovery appears to be short-lived and energy demand is unlikely to revisit pre-pandemic levels before 2022.

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More Member Responses to COVID-19


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