Friday, August 25, 2017


The R Street Institute released a report Thursday detailing a series of changes to the hydropower licensing process that it said would speed deployment of the renewable power source. "Congress and the administration should prioritize the reduction of uncertainties and delays in hydropower licensure, which largely stem from duplicative processes, poor dispute resolution and lack of schedule discipline," the report said. Among the top suggestions are making FERC the sole federal decision-maker and studying the possibility of privatizing federally owned dams.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


(WASHINGTON, DC) Months of breathless anticipation culminated late Wednesday with the release of the Energy Department's grid study that concluded the surge in supplies of cheap natural gas had weighed on power prices and was the key factor in the closure of many coal-fired power plants, Pro's Darius Dixon reports . The report, requested by Secretary Rick Perry, doesn't call for Congress to change any laws but does seek "reforms" - from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the EPA and FERC - to power markets that would help bolster the electricity network's resilience and provide support for some plants.
The agency linked four factors - cheap gas, low electricity demand growth over the past decade, government regulations and the influx of renewable energy into the grid - to the struggles of coal and nuclear power, but didn't try to assign a percentage of blame to each of them. 
Still, Perry did cast some side-eye at renewables incentives, saying in a letteraccompanying the report "[i]t is apparent that in today's competitive markets certain regulations and subsidies are having a large impact on the functioning of markets, and thereby challenging our power generation mix. It is important for policy makers to consider their intended and unintended effects."
But the report takes a softer tone than Perry's April memo that ordered up the study, which said Obama era regulations had "destroyed jobs and economic growth" and threatened the grid, and suggested that federal support for renewable power "create[s] acute and chronic problems." That document, energy guru Peter Fox-Penner told Darius, was "looking through a preconceived, political lens broadly at baseload and blaming renewables policy, which is looking at the wrong culprit. The right direction for a solution is market design." 
Part of the reason for DOE's call for FERC, EPA and other bodies to help alter electricity market and aid power plants is because the agency has limited power to direct energy policy. "DOE has no authority," former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, a Democrat, said ahead of the report's release. "It's FERC that has all the authority .. .and DOE does not control FERC. I would say that when I was there, and I'd say it now."
Other voices weigh in: Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy, said grid operators weren't having the troubles adjusting to a wide array of resources as suggested: "This report seriously overstates the challenges associated with new energy resources," he said. Consumer Energy Alliance President David Holt called it an important step in discussing the future of the energy grid: "While utilities, electric cooperatives, and grid operators have been able to absorb the changes brought about by increases in renewable energy and the abundance of low-cost natural gas, it is clear that they will have significant challenges as the pace of change accelerates," he said in a statement. Others were not so positive. "Coal and nuclear can no longer compete on their own, and they are now pushing Trump to save them. This study is a shoddy attempt to do just that," the Sierra Club's Mary Anne Hitt said.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bonneville Power Administration Focuses on Safety &Reliability During Total Eclipse (Bonneville Power Administration)

Public’s cooperation requested in interacting with crews on or near transmission lines and facilities

(PORTLAND, OR) – While the pending total eclipse may capture the nation’s attention and turn eyes skyward, Bonneville Power Administration remains focused on the region’s high-voltage transmission lines directly overhead.
Between Aug. 16 and Aug. 23, officials from the state of Oregon expect an influx of more than one million visitors, many of whom may be camping in areas near BPA facilities and critical infrastructure. Likewise, the state of Idaho anticipates significant travel in and out of the state. BPA is keenly aware that its high-voltage corridors may appear an attractive vantage point for the public even as the lines may pose potential hazards.
These pop-up populations may put additional strain on BPA as it seeks to deliver power reliably and safely throughout the Northwest. BPA’s Security and Continuity of Operations Office has been analyzing the path and timing of the eclipse relative to BPA facilities and interests, and working both within BPA and with external agencies to identify and mitigate those potential impacts to our operations.
“We’re expecting significant traffic congestion, which could create challenges in responding to any potential power outages. We’re also concerned about the possibility of trespassing and vandalism on BPA property, as well as an elevated risk for wildfires,” says Sarah Laylo, chief security and continuity officer for BPA.
One concern for the agency is the interaction between the public and our transmission field crews who may be responding to a power outage or performing needed maintenance on the high-voltage transmission system.
“If you encounter a BPA field crew in or near a BPA right-of-way or facility, please remember they have a job to do and that job is directly tied to providing reliable power to the people of the Northwest,” said Robin Furrer, vice president of Transmission Services for BPA. “And if they give you instructions or request that you leave an area, it is for your safety. High voltage cannot be taken lightly.”
As a way of introduction to visitors and a reminder to residents of the northwest, BPA operates three-fourths of the region’s high-voltage transmission system. That system includes more than 15,000 circuit miles of lines that move vast amounts of power from hydroelectric projects and other power plants to urban centers hundreds of miles away.
Here are some key safety facts to remember with power lines or substations:
BPA’s high-voltage transmission lines range from 69,000 volts to 500,000 volts – that’s 50 to 100 times the amount of electricity that flows through the distribution lines delivering power to your home;
Unlike the wiring in your home, overhead power lines are not enclosed by electrical insulating material;
Electricity can “arc” or “flashover” from wires, through the air, to trees, other vegetation or equipment up to 15 feet away, where it can cause fires, injuries or even fatalities to anyone nearby;
When power lines carry more electric load, they normally heat up, which causes the wire to expand and sag. In summer, for example, when the air is hot and customers demand lots of electricity, lines can sag up to 14 feet;
Under some high-voltage lines, vehicles can collect induced voltage, particularly if on a nonconductive surface such as asphalt or dry rock. BPA crews use specific restrictions for parking and roads within the right-of-way to keep potential shocks at a low level.
Additionally, wildfires are an ever-present danger, particularly during a dry, hot summer. While BPA’s right of ways are used on occasion as fire breaks by firefighters, they are not immune to fire. Something as simple as the heat from an idling vehicle’s exhaust pipe can result in combustion of grasses or low vegetation.
BPA is asking the public to report any suspicious activity in the vicinity of the high-voltage transmission system. Damage to lines or substations or other related facilities and equipment is a crime. BPA incurs direct costs to replace stolen or damaged equipment. But those costs, along with lost revenues and economic losses due to power interruptions, are ultimately passed on to electric ratepayers in the Northwest.
Crime Witness Program

BPA offers up to $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of individuals committing crimes against BPA facilities and infrastructure. If you have information about illegal or suspicious activity on BPA property, please call BPA’s 24-hour, toll-free, confidential Crime Witness hotline at 800-437-2744. If you see illegal or suspicious activity happening in real time, please first contact local law enforcement. For more details about the program, go to

Friday, August 4, 2017

Northwest Open Access Network's CEO Announces Retirement (Washington PUD Association)

After over 17 years of service, Northwest Open Access Network's (NoaNet) founder and Chief Executive Officer, Greg L. Marney, has announced his retirement effective December 31, 2017. Back in 2000 Marney saw an untapped opportunity to bridge the internet digital divide by connecting the capacity of isolated fiber networks deployed by PUDs by linking them, building a high capacity backbone network connecting major cities to many rural areas.  Marney working with the NoaNet Board of Directors and member utilities worked to expand open access broadband in all counties in the state. 

Dave Spencer, who has served as NoaNet's Chief Operating Officer since NoaNet's launch, will be acting CEO effective August 1st, 2017 while Greg enjoys accrued vacation time through year end. A permanent CEO is to be selected by NoaNet's Board of Directors in the coming months.

Three Days in a Row – Heat Wave Shatters Bonneville Power Administration’s Summer Record for Electricity Use (Bonneville Power Administration)

(PORTLAND, OR) – Several Days of intense heat pushed Northwest temperatures above the 100-degree mark sending regional summertime power consumption to record highs.  As the mercury soared, air conditioners and fans hummed along breaking the Bonneville Power Administration’s record for peak summertime electricity consumption three days in a row.

BPA customer power usage broke the 2014 peak of 7,861 megawatts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 1, 2 and 3, with Wednesday being the highest. BPA’s customers consumed 8,048 MW on Tuesday, 8,226 MW Wednesday and 8,208 on Thursday.  For reference, just one MW can power an estimated 700 Northwest homes or 1,200 MW can power an entire city the size of Seattle.

BPA, in concert with its federal partners, prepared for the heat wave by safely delaying routine-maintenance activities, ensuring the turbines in federal dams were optimized for power generation and working closely with the Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear plant that generates up to 1,200 MW of clean, reliable power.

BPA transmission crews also stood ready to quickly address outages and kept in constant contact with firefighters as wildland fires across the region threatened transmission lines. However, so far, problems on BPA’s transmission system have been kept to a minimum.

“Our crews have done an outstanding job preparing for this stretch of hot weather. And not just the equipment and the system, they’ve also been watching out for each other’s safety in this sweltering heat. We’ve not had a single injury, heat-related or otherwise, during this event,” says Robin Furrer, vice president of Transmission Field Services for the Bonneville Power Administration. “Our mission is to keep the lights on even under the most extreme conditions. So this is a job well done.”

Jefferson PUD Names New Telecom Manager (Jefferson, PUD, Port Townsend, WA)

(PORT TOWNSEND, WA) --  The Jefferson County Public Utility District has announced Jerry Wilson as its new telecom manager.

Wilson will work directly with internet suppliers to provide internet and bandwidth for the county by spearheading the transition from NoaNet to a PUD-controlled fiber network, according to a news release.

The new network will offer citizens enhanced opportunities for broadband services, the release said.

Wilson relocated to Port Townsend during 2013 with years of experience in telecommunications and information technology environments.

He has worked for companies such as MCI, Verizon and Emprix.

According to the release, he has also designed and deployed a national internet service provider network, conducted large-scale stress testing for distributed call centers and managed the installation of digital fiber, as well as radio broadband systems for universities.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Heat Wave Poised to Break Bonneville Power Administration’s Summer Peak for Electricity Use – Readiness Actions in Motion Agency-Wide (Bonneville Power Administration)

(PORTLAND, OR) – The Bonneville Power Administration’s electric power and transmission experts are working together to keep the electrons flowing to millions of Northwest consumers and businesses during the expected heat wave this week, which they anticipate will break BPA’s record for peak summertime electricity consumption.

The previous BPA summertime record was set on July 16, 2014. During that week, when the mercury soared, air conditioners and fans were humming and electricity peaked at 7,861 megawatts at 6 p.m. Compare that peak to a typical 80 degree summer afternoon when electricity consumption may be 600 MW less. For reference, one MW can power more than 700 Northwest homes.

With the region yet again facing a potential multi-day summer heat wave above the 100-degree mark, BPA is preparing for extremes.

“As we take a number of steps BPA-wide to get ready, it’s also important to note that in the utility business, unforeseen issues can emerge at any time,” said Janet Herrin, BPA’s Chief Operating Officer. “The goal is to be as prepared as possible so if something does occur we can quickly restore delivery of power where needed to meet demand, whether from wholesale power generated at federal dams or power coming from other sources.”

Herrin also stated, “All of our hot weather operations across BPA must take into account our commitment to both public safety and environmental sustainability.”

BPA, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, sells wholesale electricity from 31 federal dams and one nuclear plant to 142 electric utilities, serving millions of consumers and businesses in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

BPA delivers power via more than 15,000 circuit miles of lines and 260 substations to 511 transmission customers.

One variable BPA’s experts are monitoring closely are the wildfires burning near electrical transmission corridors in multiple locations in the Northwest. Winds can intensify or shift in a matter of seconds, which drive the path of flames in any direction. In addition, excessive heat over multiple days places additional stress on all parts of the grid and can cause power lines to sag, sometimes by a factor of several feet, which is why BPA works hard to keep rights-of way beneath high voltage transmission lines clear of vegetation and debris.

BPA’s preparedness steps range from delaying certain maintenance activities that can be safely scheduled for another week to working with federal dam operators to ensure the water intakes for hydro turbines are free of debris and optimized for power generation. The agency has also stepped up its non-wires efforts. These are tools and processes that can be employed as an alternative to building transmission lines and can increase reliability during times of extreme weather and high power demand.

BPA has also reached out to its workforce throughout the Northwest to take the proper steps in staying hydrated and reducing heat exhaustion. “A stronger, healthier workforce has fewer safety incidents and also is better prepared to respond to unplanned events,” said Brad Bea, BPA’s chief safety officer.

At the conclusion of this summer heat event, BPA will share with the public whether or not a new summer peak was recorded.

BPA also encourages consumers who are interested in energy savings tips and heat wave preparations being made in their communities to plug into their local utility provider.