WAPA helps tribal customer avoid rate increase

​by Philip Reed, May 2, 2017

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, a Navajo Nation enterprise and longtime WAPA customer, found itself facing a substantial cost increase earlier this year. Fortunately, WAPA was able to help.

"The balancing authority serving NTUA was on the verge of implementing some rate changes and adjustments," said Colorado River Storage Management Center Supervisory Public Utilities Specialist Steve Johnson. "When all was said and done, their rates could have risen by as much as 400 percent, and those costs would have been passed on to their customers. Walter Haase, NTUA's general manager, got in touch with us to see how we could help."

Haase contacted CRSP MC on Jan. 6 to discuss joining the Western Area Colorado Missouri Balancing Authority, which would avoid the rate increase. The idea of joining WACM was initially raised in fall 2016, but no action was taken at that point. With the rate increase looming, however, discussions resumed.

"We had to get NTUA into WACM by March 1 to avoid the new rate that was being implemented," Johnson explained. "They were also interested in WAPA providing merchant services. That gave us only about seven weeks to work through a process that would normally take several months."

In order to meet this deadline for the customer, CRSP MC mobilized staff members from the Salt Lake City and Montrose, Colorado, offices, as well as Rocky Mountain Operations staff from Loveland, Colorado. Staff came together with NTUA Jan. 10 for a kickoff meeting, followed by a second meeting on Jan. 20 to finalize plans. Desert Southwest staff assisted with logistics and provided conference rooms.

"Moving loads between two balancing authorities and taking over merchant services for those loads is a lot of work," continued Johnson. "We were able to do it extremely fast when you consider that contract creation and execution, metering requirements, scheduling package additions, transmission reservation adjustments, training, testing and a lot more all had to be fully addressed prior to going live."

"We had a very tight deadline, and our goal was to help NTUA meet it," said Rocky Mountain Electrical Engineer Raymond Vojdani, who was deeply involved with the project. "A great deal of work, coordination and communication had to happen between many functional groups stationed in different offices. We also had to coordinate what we were doing with other organizations, such as Arizona Public Service Company, Public Service Company of New Mexico and Tucson Electric Power Company."

The process was accelerated by ensuring that staff members from different offices worked together as a single team on the project, pulling together toward a clear, common objective. "Everyone knew what their piece was and how it related to the end goal," Johnson explained. "The group demonstrated great communication and coordination, and was able to get NTUA shifted to WACM by the deadline."

Ultimately the team was able to successfully meet NTUA's request, avoiding the potential rate increase of 400 percent, with WACM providing the operations and reliability functions necessary to serve its load. NTUA now also has a merchant agreement with the Energy Marketing and Management Office in Montrose, which provides load and resource management services.

"I was glad to see that we were able to help NTUA so quickly," Johnson said. "Tribal customers are very important to WAPA, and we do our best to help whenever we can. We're glad NTUA reached out when they did, and we look forward to supporting them in the future."

"At midnight on Feb. 28, when the Rocky Mountain Region officially transitioned NTUA's load into WACM balancing authority, I could see the jubilation and satisfaction among our Operations staff for successfully implementing the first phase of this project," concluded Vojdani. "We were all very proud of what we accomplished."