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Bonneville Power Administration

From Academic Kids

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is a US self-financed federal agency headquartered in Portland, Oregon which transmits and sells wholesale electricity to Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana. A part of the U.S. Department of Energy, the BPA was created in 1937 to provide the hydroelectricity generated from Bonneville Dam and, later, Grand Coulee Dam; as of 2004, it still provides about half the electricity used in the region.

The BPA now markets the electricity from thirty-one hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and her tributaries, as well as the Columbia Generating Station located on the Hanford Site. It has more than 15,000 miles of electrical lines and 300 substations in the Pacific Northwest and in fact controls approximately 75 percent of the transmission lines in the region. The BPA also maintain connection lines with other power grids in Canada and the southwestern United States.

The power generated on the BPA's grid is sold to public utilities, private utilities, and industry on the grid. The excess is sold to other grids in Canada, California and other regions. Because they are a public entity, they sell their electricity at cost and not at market prices. They also coordinate with the Corps to regulate flow of water in the Columbia River and take on environmental projects such as salmon replenishment.

Currently, the BPA is working to create an organization that would oversee the operations of the entire Northwest electric-transmission grid system. The plan, called Grid West, would create a so-called Regional Transmission Organization (RTO). The move to create an RTO was at the behest of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which required all regions of the United States to establish an RTO or Standard Market Design (SMD) structure.

Grid West is a contentious issue in the Northwest where there are many publically owned utilities, most of which are against the concept because they feel that it will limit their market independance from what many see as an overbearing government agency (I.E.: FERC). The BPA, on the other hand, is in mostly in favor of the concept largely because they are currently forced to pay for the majority of transmission upgrades in by incurring debt while private transmission owners, such as Avista Corp. and Puget Sound Energy (both Investor Owned Utilities) are not required to do the same although the region is faced with a sever shortage of transmission. However, the BPA says that it is open to the idea that Grid West may not be the best method to fixing the region's transmission issues.

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