Olmsted Hydroelectric Power Plant

 Feature photo by David Tucker

WAPA completes Olmsted Power Marketing Plan 

Earlier this year, WAPA finalized and published its Final 2025 Olmsted Power Marketing Plan, which specifies the terms and conditions under which WAPA will market energy from the Olmsted Project for the next 30 years, beginning in October 2024.  

“It’s exciting to see all the work performed by our team over the past couple of years come to fruition,” said Senior Vice President and Colorado River Storage Project Manager Rodney Bailey. “As the Olmsted Project has evolved and adapted to changing conditions, so have WAPA and our customers, which joined forces to make this new powerplant, transmission line and marketing plan a reality.”  

The Olmsted Project sits at the mouth of Provo Canyon in northern Utah and is part of the Central Utah Project within the Colorado River Storage Project. The United States owns the project for use by the Central Utah Project Completion Act Office within Department of the Interior, which took over the project from PacifiCorp in 2015.  

Title II of the Central Utah Project Completion Act authorizes the Central Water Conservancy District to construct certain Central Utah Project features, including power generation facilities. In February 2015, the district entered into an implementation agreement with DOI, Bureau of Reclamation and WAPA, and after financing more than 50% of the project costs, the district began building a 12-megawatt, $42 million replacement hydroelectric facility.  

A new distribution power line was also constructed to deliver power to the nearby Provo Power system, where the project participants and those receiving an allocation entered into a small generator interconnection agreement with the City of Provo. From there, power generated by Olmsted could be delivered to the grid. 

Commissioned in 2018, the Olmsted Project is a ‘‘run-of-the-river’’ plant producing power only when water rights owners downstream demand water deliveries. In Fiscal Year 2021, Olmsted produced 11.4 gigawatt hours of net power generation and more than $1 million in revenue during a low-water year.  

Building a marketing plan  

WAPA develops a new power marketing plan when hydro generation capacity comes online or when existing power sales contracts expire. In the case of Olmsted, the existing contracts are set to expire in September 2024, spurring the renewal of the marketing plan.  

“We start by estimating the time needed to complete the process, factoring in how much advance notice existing and potential customers will need in planning for their future federal resources,” said Supervisory Public Utilities Specialist Randolph Manion. “This gives our customers a chance to pursue other cost-effective ways to meet their consumers’ remaining electric power needs.”  

In the case of Olmsted, WAPA provided six final allocations to customers: Utah Municipal Power Agency; and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, which includes allocations for Central Utah Water Conservancy District, the cities of Kaysville, Lehi and Springville, Utah, and Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.  

In laying the groundwork for the new Olmsted plan, beginning in 2022, CRSP staff reached out to those customers and other interested parties prior to starting a formal process. They provided an overview of the process and discussed marketing plan concepts to better inform WAPA stakeholders. CRSP used input from these informal meetings to help inform the plan.  

Early in June 2022, the public process officially kicked off when CRSP published a Federal Register notice on the Proposed 2025 Olmsted Power Marketing Plan, mailed copies to existing Olmsted customers and posted information on the CRSP external power marketing website.  

“That FRN explained the need for the plan and presented customers WAPA’s initial proposal and their options,” Manion explained. “It also announced the dates and times of public information meetings, comment forums and how to submit written comments, and it provided contact info for further information.” 

A public information meeting and separate comment forum were held later in June 2022, and CRSP received both verbal and written comments. 

“We really appreciated the customer comments. We listened and incorporated many of these comments into the final marketing plan, and it’s a better plan because of this process and WAPA’s willingness to accommodate concerns that are important to the customer,” Manion said.  

In some cases, WAPA repeats these steps to consider additional comments before issuing a final decision. “But in the case of Olmsted, we addressed almost 100% of the customers’ concerns in the final marketing plan so we felt there was no need to repeat the process with more public involvement meetings,” Manion added.  

WAPA issued a final decision on the Olmsted marketing plan in the Federal Register in March 2023. After the final plan was published along with WAPA’s responses to the major comments received, the final plan became effective 30 days later.  

Assessing environmental impacts  

As a federal agency, WAPA must also examine its power marketing plans to determine the appropriate level of environmental review needed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. 

In recent years, the Department of Energy revised its NEPA guidelines to call for rigorous environmental assessments only when adding new generation resources, providing service to major new loads or making significant changes in operations of power generating resources. Otherwise, marketing plans can be categorically excluded from lengthy environmental review, as was the case with Olmsted.  

“The Olmsted marketing plan was relatively straightforward, which helped keep it on track for completion this year,” said Bailey. 

Contracting for future power needs  

The final plan describes how WAPA will determine allocations of firm, or guaranteed, electric power deliveries to individual customers, which happens during contract negotiations, the current phase. 

The marketing plan sets the guardrails for the distribution of available firm power resources among competing applicants.  

“An allocation provides customers the opportunity to contract with us for an assigned amount of power; it is not a right to receive power,” explained Manion. “But once they sign the contract, it does become an entitlement to receive power and/or energy.”  

After finalizing the plan, CRSP staff began drafting contracts, which reflect essential portions of the final plan. WAPA adds other standard contract provisions to comply with existing laws, policies and practices.  

“In the electric service contract, we will use some standardized long-term power contract provisions, new provisions that take into account present-day operational considerations, and adjust allocations for individual customers, including the amount of energy the customer may receive,” said Manion. “In a separate multi-party scheduling and delivery agreement with those customers receiving an Olmsted allocation, we also stipulate conditions for scheduling electricity deliveries, transmission services with set delivery points and duties for the Olmsted generation.”  

Once WAPA and its customer sign an electric service contract, the allocation becomes a binding contract commitment or contract rate of delivery. WAPA completes the process when it begins delivering power under the contract.  

Opportunity for new customers  

Significantly, the final Olmsted marketing plan also establishes a resource pool of up to 3% of the marketable resource under contract at the time of reallocation to be made available for eligible new preference entities or existing Olmsted customers. WAPA will complete the contracts for new customers under this 2034 Resource Pool by October 1, 2034.  

WAPA will publish the application procedures for the 2034 Resource Pool in a separate Federal Register notice soon after the start of calendar year 2030. 

Note: the author is a public affairs specialist.  

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Last modified on March 12th, 2024