By Philip Reed
In March, WAPA named Paul Schwabe as senior vice president and Transmission Infrastructure Program manager. He brings with him a wealth of national lab and utility industry experience. Immediately prior to joining WAPA, he spent 14 years with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“My NREL career was largely focused on researching and implementing financial innovations for renewable energy and storage projects," he explained. “I was fortunate to work with stakeholders across all parts of the country, from remote Alaskan communities to Puerto Rican financial institutions and even a few of WAPA's preference power customers."
He has also worked for the investor-owned utility Con Edison in New York City, utility technology company Itron and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Federal service just might run in his blood.
“My mother was a career federal employee for the U.S. Forest Service," he said. “I appreciated that perspective in my formative years. I lived in Northern California and was there during what was, at the time, the third-most destructive wildfire in state history: the 49er Fire."
Schwabe and his family stayed to help because his mother and stepfather were trained in fire response.
“Growing up in that environment, being around wildfires, including the community we grew up in, makes me really appreciate the work WAPA does in the West," he said.
During his time with NREL, Schwabe had an opportunity to work with WAPA's TIP team, which was led at the time by current Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau.
“I conducted a market analysis for the TIP team," he said. “It was a great intro to WAPA, its people and the TIP program specifically. It was clear what a unique federal program TIP is and the strong interest in the program."
He also collaborated with LeBeau when she worked for the DOE Office of Indian Energy.
“We organized a number of renewable energy workshops for Tribes across the U.S. to better understand the unique considerations they faced in terms of financing renewables and transmission access," explained Schwabe. “It was a great opportunity to listen to Tribes and get creative to meet their unique needs rather than coming in with an inflexible approach or communication style. It was a lesson that stuck with me and which I hope to bring to WAPA as well."
Refreshing and growing TIP
In his new role, Schwabe is looking forward to promoting and growing TIP as a program, both internally and externally, and reinforcing its value. He also shared kind words about the work the team had done prior to his arrival.
“The TIP team and a number of key contributors across WAPA have done an amazing job in putting projects through our rigorous process and setting the program up for continued successes," he said. “I am really excited to help the team in offering new ideas, contacts and stakeholder collaboration."
Schwabe said that it is important to enhance rather than interrupt his team's momentum. He also believes that he brings a fresh perspective to the table.
“I want to explore new ways of thinking about TIP projects for myself and the broader TIP team and how we can evolve along with the overall market," he said.
He feels that his broad experience and many industry contacts will serve him well in the role.
“Whether it's private industry, government entities, utilities or Tribes, I am looking forward to working with each of those important stakeholders in the TIP process," he explained. “WAPA does have engagements with NREL and other labs already, but this is another example of the collaboration that I hope to continue to grow."
Outdoors and open doors
In his spare time, Schwabe keeps himself centered by running.
“It's sort of my Zen," he said. “I try not listen to music too much when I run because I enjoy simply zoning out to think about things big and small, and it provides clarity and clears stresses. I've done that for the past 20 plus years and, by my non-scientific estimate, I've run about as many miles as WAPA's transmission lines: 17,000 and growing."
He plans to participate in the classic Colfax Marathon this month and possibly Pikes Peak Marathon this summer. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Alison, and his children, Trent and Celia.
“We are all going through our first set of ski lessons right now, but we are probably behind the learning curve, Colorado-wise," he said. “Also, my son is a big Colorado Mammoth fan, so I'm trying to get into lacrosse a bit. He's teaching me most of the rules so far."
Schwabe looks forward to meeting and getting to know his colleagues throughout WAPA, and he emphasized the fact that he wants to hear from them.
“I want to always be open to the many perspectives and experience with TIP and more," he said. “If you have an idea for a project or direction, my virtual office doors are open. I want to be easily accessible to customers outside of the organization, too. TIP at its core is a partnership-based program and that is one of my absolute favorite things about it."
Note: Reed is a public affairs specialist.