Electrical Energy Development in the Pacific Southwest

EMD-79-73: Published: Oct 16, 1979. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1979.

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As part of an effort to assess past and potential roles for Federal power agencies within their respective geographic regions, GAO examined the role of the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) in the Pacific Southwest (Arizona, California, and Nevada). The 10 energy principles cited in the April 1977 National Energy Plan provided the assessment criteria.

Because of the unreliability of oil imports, escalating fuel and plant construction costs, environmental concerns, and delays in obtaining approval for nuclear powerplant construction, plans to rely on coal, oil, and nuclear energy to provide for the Pacific Southwest's energy needs through the 1990's have become uncertain. Increasingly, utility companies and State and Federal governments have considered conservation and the development of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. The report analyzed two scenarios for fulfilling the electricity needs of the Pacific Southwest by the year 2000. Scenario I policies restate current State and utility energy policies: heavy reliance on coal and nuclear resources, with efforts to conserve energy and develop minimal amounts of alternative solar and wind resources. Scenario II assumes an aggressive effort by the public, private industry, and the Government to conserve and develop more alternative renewable sources of energy. The analysis demonstrated that Scenario II would provide greater benefits in terms of cost, risk, equity, and environmental impact; would require little change in lifestyle for the general public; and would require no substantial change in current policies at the local, State, Federal, and utility levels. The total estimated costs of these options are $20.4 billion under Scenario I and $14.2 billion under Scenario II.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: In order to bring about a gradual increase in WAPA rates leading to a parity with average utility rates prevailing in its marketing area by the year 2000 and to assure the Pacific Southwest an adequate supply of electrical power, the Congress should pursue the following policies: (1) relieve WAPA of its charter responsibility for encouraging the widest possible use of electricity at the lowest possible cost and direct it to undertake programs to examine the most appropriate structure of its rates to encourage conservation, consistent with the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act, and to implement those rates; (2) provide WAPA with bonding authority and direct it to act as a lead agency in its marketing area to help finance conservation and the development of solar and wind resources, and allow funds to be repaid through the power revenues; and (3) provide WAPA with authority to exercise flexibility in power charges.


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