NEWS FROM WESTERN AREA POWER ADMINISTRATION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 23, 2008
CONTACT: Randy Wilkerson, 720-962-7056
WESTERN'S NEcreaW IRP RULES STREAMLINE PLANNING, ENCOURAGE SHARING
In the first update of its integrated resource planning (IRP) rules since 2000, Western Area Power Administration is adopting three revisions, effective July 21, 2008.
WAPA's decision follows a public process that began with the publishing of a Federal Register Notice on Aug. 21, 2007. The changes are:
Eliminating the requirement that members of a member-based association (MBA) unanimously approve the MBA's IRP
Encouraging customers to cooperate on preparing regional IRPs
Making current customer IRPs more accessible to the public by placing them on WAPA's or the customer's Web site
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 requires WAPA's firm power customers to submit an integrated resource plan to WAPA every five years and provide annual updates, forecasting their future electric power demand and thoroughly evaluating ways to meet it. The program is designed to extend WAPA's existing firm power resource commitments, and to promote energy diversity and efficient practices.
"Our goal was to make it easier for our customers to address emerging trends and shifting conditions in their IRPs," said WAPA Administrator Tim Meeks. "We believe these revisions to the rules will help make the planning process more effective and efficient."
The IRP is also a tool to help utilities determine the most cost-effective measures and resources for serving their customers, added Western Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman, who led the review process. "It's important that IRP requirements reflect changes in resource options, technology, environmental issues and more that have occurred in the industry," Horstman explained.
The first change, eliminating the need for all members of an MBA to approve the MBA's IRP, is intended to speed up the approval process. Under the new rule, the IRP only needs the approval of the governing body of an MBA, which represents the interests of each member. This revision will significantly shorten the IRP approval process, ensuring that the IRP is relevant for the period it covers. "This is a valid concern as conditions change quickly in the energy industry," said Horstman.
The second rule adds a paragraph to IRP regulations to encourage utilities, both WAPA customers and non-customers, to work together on regional IRPs. This is a clarification, rather than a change, to the current IRP requirements. Utilities have never had to be part of an MBA, or even a Western customer, to be included in a regional IRP submitted by WAPA customers.
The new language may encourage more utilities to collaborate on regional plans for such projects as wind farm development and expanding the transmission system—two issues Meeks has called key to WAPA's future.
The final change, and the proposal that received the most comments, allows WAPA to make current customer IRPs available to the public on its Web site. Customers may request that confidential commercial and financial information not be disclosed when they file their IRPs. If WAPA agrees that the information is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), those sections would be deleted from the plan before it is posted on the WAPA Web site. Under FOIA, WAPA has always had the right to determine what can be deleted from IRPs.
WAPA shares customer concerns about preserving confidential information in IRPs filed with the agency. "Consistent with existing rules, WAPA will continue to seek its customers' views on whether information in an IRP is exempt from disclosure under FOIA," Horstman said.
Meeks stated that customer input was invaluable in helping to shape the IRP revisions. "These rules help to ensure that WAPA will continue to provide low-cost, reliable electricity," he said. "We thank everyone who contributed comments."