By Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel
2020 was a historic year, heralding a level of change we could not possibly have anticipated. In fact, when we selected “Engaging in a World of Change” at the end of 2019 as our theme for 2020, we had no idea how prescient a choice it would turn out to be.
In spite of the worldwide upheaval brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, WAPA adapted and perservered. Against the backdrop of adversity and uncertainty, we managed to continue successfully delivering on our mission in 2020.
Of course, we did more than deliver on our mission. Our accomplishments this year are many, even as we adjusted to a new way of working and living. As just a small sampling, we:
• Marketed 26,985 gigawatt-hours of hydropower, or 100.3% of average.
• Transitioned 1,500 employees to maximized telework in four days.
• Had our pandemic plan sent by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to every utility in America.
• Returned $272.3 million to the U.S. Treasury for a total of $2.6 billion over the past eight years.
• Saved or avoided over $113 million in costs since 2014 through continuous process improvement activities.
• Initiated a fiber pilot project with two Rocky Mountain customers and one Sierra Nevada customer.
• Supported California during its energy emergency Aug. 14-19 with a total of 5,400 megawatt-hours.
Responding to COVID-19 has presented a major evolutionary step for WAPA, and indeed all government agencies and utilities, to deploy innovative new processes, procedures and tools in line with the 21st century.
For 2021, our theme is a single, simple word: “Balance.”
As we adapt and evolve in this energy frontier, one that now includes COVID-19, it will be critical for us to embody strength, resilience, unity and leadership while also being mindful of our enduring mission, reliability, regional differences and collaborative culture with our customers.
It is not beyond the imagination to believe that we will have a fully integrated market in the West in the next two to three years. We have been preparing for this eventuality with Organizational Approach to Markets, the Mountain West Transmission Group and our transition into the California Independent System Operator Energy Imbalance Market and the Southwest Power Pool Western Energy Imbalance Service.
Our goal is to optimally position WAPA as a major player at the markets table to ensure we can influence their development and preserve and strengthen the value of WAPA and our customers. This requires a delicate balance between leadership and collaboration.
We operate a reliable system, weathering disruptions, including storms, wildlife interactions, vehicle accidents, routine maintenance and emergency situations. We anticipate investing $1.3 billion in our system over the next decade to ensure that reliability.
Resilience is the ability to prevent, withstand and recover from disruptive threats and events—an important distinction from reliability as we balance our available personnel and funds.
This has also been a difficult year with a record-breaking wildfire season across much of our territory. Thanks to proactive vegetation management, we avoided what could have been an even worse situation, requiring rebuilding and repairs. Yet, wildfires were only the most visible resilience challenge we faced.
The California energy crisis was a harbinger of resilience challenges to come due to the energy transi¬tion and lack of transmission buildout. We continue to be concerned that the long-term contracts needed to build more transmission are lacking in these uncertain times.
SPP and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator both announced limited transmission capacity that is preventing new generation sources from being added to the grid. We are operating closer and closer to system limits with each passing year. Cyber attackers are becoming more prolific and advanced in their techniques.
Outages are less acceptable for any reason and for any duration due to electricity’s integral role to our economy and way of life.
Upgrades are expensive, and one enduring question is how to strike the appropriate cost balance between those who use these upgrades and those who benefit from projects that support the national energy resilience and security.
In 2021, we will focus on workload planning to bet¬ter balance our resources against our many competing organizational priorities. If we were able to better match our resources with business needs, we could more efficiently and effectively complete the many pressing projects before us.
This year, we will focus on documenting operations and maintenance projects to establish a baseline level of work, particularly for our craft employees.
Although we are focusing on the craft first, these projects take a cohort of WAPA functions and people, from Operations conducting system reliability studies, to Natural Resources performing environmental reviews and land acquisition, to Design and Engineering to Procurement, to Construction and, finally, to our crews. Eventually, the work done by all these functions will be captured in this initiative.
I greatly appreciate your continued engagement and support of WAPA and look forward to continuing our journey together to create a bright, valuable and relevant future. Together, we will achieve and sustain balance amid the many opportunities and challenges before us.
Stay safe, remain socially distanced and wear your mask.
Last modified on September 12th, 2023