Bonneville Power Administration's Efforts in Implementing Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act

EMD-81-67: Published: Apr 8, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 8, 1981.

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Passage of the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act culminated over 3 years of legislative effort, which significantly expanded the authority and responsibility of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). During this period, GAO issued several reports on Northwest power issues and on legislative proposals to restructure BPA.

Forecasts by regional utilities indicate that the Pacific Northwest could experience power shortages in the 1980's during periods of unfavorable water conditions. However, differing opinions exist as to whether such shortages will occur or how severe they might be. The act provides for the creation of a regional council of state representatives and charges it with the responsibility for developing a regional conservation and electric power plan, which includes a 20-year electricity demand and supply forecast. The complexities of demand forecasting suggested that BPA should assign a high priority to this effort and should develop a qualified forecasting section with a wide variety of expertise. The act directs BPA to offer its customers long-term contracts for the sale of electricity within 9 months of the passage of the act. This requirement places significant time pressures on the BPA contracting staff which must develop about 150 power-sale contracts by September 1981 for federal agencies, direct service industries, and public and private utilities. The act increased the BPA bonding authority for self-financing by $1.25 billion and reserved this amount for conservation and renewable resource development. The act expanded BPA responsibilities in energy planning and, for the first time, provided it with broad purchase authority to meet regional power needs. BPA recently was granted authority to increase its ceiling by 34 employees in fiscal year (FY) 1981 and 83 employees in FY 1982 to implement its new responsibilities.

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