Paul Schwabe Kilimanjaro

Get to know the Senior Vice President & TIP Manager - Paul Schwabe

In March 2022, Paul Schwabe joined WAPA as senior vice president and Transmission Infrastructure Program manager. Before WAPA, he spent 14 years with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He currently manages the TIP program which leverages WAPA’s borrowing authority, and its transmission project development experience, to expand and modernize the grid.

Paul Schwabe
Portrait of Senior Vice President & TIP Manager – Paul Schwabe

What brought you to WAPA initially?

I came to WAPA originally from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. At a basic level, I knew of type the work that WAPA did because WAPA facilitated NREL contractually in executing a long-term solar power purchase agreement for onsite solar at NREL, which I thought was a unique and valuable service to other federal entities (shout-out to Randy Manion who led the WAPA effort).

At a more granular level, I also had the career fortune of working with the Transmission Infrastructure Program while at NREL and with Administrator and CEO Tracey A. LeBeau even before that. I knew what a key role transmission will have in the next 20 years, so I jumped at the chance to be part of WAPA’s exciting mission – even if I knew I had a lot to learn!

What has been your most rewarding experience at WAPA so far?

Two memories stick out. The first was a participation at a ceremony of a new transmission project. Even though it wasn’t a WAPA transmission project, it was still quite motivating and energizing to see long-running efforts come to fruition. That made me even more excited for these opportunities in the future, particularly those with prominent WAPA and TIP involvement (such as the Electrical District No. 5 Palo Verde Hub Project). I recently learned of a term from Pete Heiman in Desert Southwest for this, which is seeing “steel in the ground and wires in the air,” so I have been stealing that term from Pete.

The second example is more a collection of experiences with the members of the TIP team in collaboration with DSW , its employees and external partners. WAPA recently announced a collaboration with GridLiance to explore congestion solutions around Hoover Dam for example. There are several TIP opportunities in the DSW region currently, and I’ve gotten to know the people, organizations and potential partners there much better. I’m really looking forward to continuing to grow our partnerships at DSW and increasing the TIP interactions and opportunities across all WAPA regions.

What is something most people do not know about you?

In 2006, I had more of an adventurous spirit and risk appetite than I do now. Living at sea-level in New York City I wanted to see the Glaciers on Mt. Kilimanjaro before they were gone, so I trekked to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. My urban training was walking in hiking boots the entire 14-mile length of Broadway in Manhattan with basically zero elevation gain. I suppose the whole experience had some influence on me moving out to mountainous Colorado just a few years later, and ultimately joining WAPA.

What are you reading right now? Do you have a favorite author?

I tend to read a few books at time and slowly go back and forth between them. More work-related, I have been reading Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 by Stephen Ambrose. In my mind there are many applicable parallels to our transmission system today, such as technical innovation and engineering, government competition and contracting, the complicated human and environmental impacts and more.

In fact, just outside of Sierra Nevada’s Folsom office is a historical feat of engineering from when the Transcontinental Railroad was built called the Bloomer Cut. It was created to advance the train route through an 800-foot-long hill that you can literally walk right up to today, more than 150 years later. If it wasn’t for a nondescript plaque, it’s easy to miss the importance of this feat. I have a picture of the Bloomer Cut in my office, and I’m sure there are transmission system versions of achievements like this all around us as well.

What is your style for both communication and leadership?

For leadership, I try to encourage both myself and others to be unafraid of failing, even though it can be uncomfortable, and that sometimes we need to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones. I have found some of my most rewarding accomplishments and growth opportunities occurred when a team of us did something we previously thought beyond our capabilities. I didn’t come up with this acronym, but it stuck with me: a FAIL is also just another way of saying “first attempt in learning.”

My communication style is to try to be as open and transparent as I can, which is also something I need to actively practice nearly every single day, professionally and at home.

Meet the rest of the TIP team.

Erin Green

What is your role?

I am an attorney-advisor in WAPA’s Office of General Counsel, and I am assigned to provide programmatic and project support to TIP. I research, analyze and advise on all sorts of interesting (and sometimes less interesting but still critical) issues, such as interpreting our statutory authority, researching applicability and interaction of other laws or programs, advising on National Environmental Policy Act and reviewing and negotiating agreements with program applicants.

What is your TIP career highlight?

I supported TIP early in my career when I was a very “green” attorney. The very day after I received my law license in 2009, I assisted in a closing of TIP’s first loan. I handled the bundles of documents, flipping to the appropriate pages, handing them to the executives to sign. At that early stage in my career, I was in awe of the work we were doing.

What are you excited about for TIP going forward?

There is so much activity and excitement around transmission in the West, and I am so excited to see the role TIP plays in facilitating, developing and financing transmission projects.

Erin Green

Stacey Harris

What is your role?

I have had the opportunity to be a part of TIP since 2009 when it began, and during that time I provided leadership for transmission project development in some capacity for multiple projects in coordination with private project developers throughout the West. I steered the review and selection of projects for TIP and oversaw all aspects of a development loan from disbursement to repayment and provided programmatic support and oversight. I led teams with numerous members from WAPA, supported by external contractor expertise. Currently, I provide leadership and advise on project development, project financing and program management advisory and support.

What is your TIP career highlight?

I would say leading two different teams for the development of the Southline and TransWest Express transmission projects towards the completion of significant developments such as marketing and rates studies, partnership agreements, preliminary engineering and design, interconnection studies, lands analysis and advisory, and records of decision.

What are you excited about for TIP going forward?

Going forward TIP will continue to have opportunities to use its borrowing authority to grow the program and have a positive impact on reliability, resiliency, system capacity, energy storage and access to clean energy sources throughout the western United States. In addition, TIP will have continued opportunities to use its project expertise to support new and upgraded transmission system infrastructure in the West.

Stacy Harris

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Last modified on March 8th, 2024