Photo: Chris Lawrence addresses WAPA customers and employees

WAPA's Annual Customer Meeting 2024

On April 3, 2024, the Western Area Power Administration convened its Annual Customer Meeting, continuing its tradition of fostering open dialogue and collaboration with its customers and stakeholders.  

Held in a hybrid format, the event allowed participants to engage in person and virtually, ensuring widespread accessibility and participation. 

A year of strategic advancements and challenges 

The meeting opened with WAPA Chief of Staff Christopher Lawrence welcoming attendees and setting the stage for a day of insightful discussions. Administrator and CEO Tracey A. LeBeau then took the podium, reflecting on a year of significant change and adaptation within WAPA and the broader energy sector. LeBeau emphasized the organization’s ongoing efforts to balance mission achievement with the evolving dynamics of work, infrastructure aging and the ever-present physical and cybersecurity threats. 

A core focus of LeBeau’s remarks was the importance of safety within WAPA’s operations. Acknowledging a rise in incidents, she outlined a comprehensive strategy for revamping WAPA’s safety culture and protocols, striving for a safer and more resilient future. 

LeBeau also highlighted WAPA’s proactive stance on transmission system resilience, including exploring market opportunities for enhanced reliability and cost efficiency. She detailed the progress toward integrating with the Southwest Power Pool Regional Transmission Organization and the strategic expansions to modernize infrastructure to meet current and future demands. 

Operational insights and cybersecurity priorities 

Executive Vice President and COO Tina Ko provided an overview of the operational landscape, stressing the challenges of aging infrastructure, physical security threats and critical material procurement lead times. Ko’s discussion underscored the importance of vigilance and preparedness in the face of diverse threats to WAPA’s extensive operational footprint. 

Also presenting was Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Mike Montoya. Montoya emphasized to attendees how cyber-attacks continued to be an evolving threat landscape for WAPA, and he highlighted the critical measures in place to safeguard the organization’s digital and physical assets. Montoya’s update on budget implications and strategic initiatives, including adopting Zero Trust Architecture, reinforced WAPA’s commitment to cybersecurity excellence. 

Photo: A customer talks with Lloyd Linke

Financial stewardship and regional perspectives 

Senior Vice President and CFO Mike Peterson offered insights into WAPA’s financial stewardship amid challenging times. Through a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis and a preview of the fiscal year 2026 budget, Peterson outlined a number of strategies for maintaining WAPA’s financial health and ensuring the organization’s capacity for strategic investments and operational resilience. 

The regional panel Q&A session, moderated by Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ron Klinefelter, provided a platform for regional managers to discuss specific challenges and priorities. This session facilitated a meaningful exchange with customers, highlighting regional concerns and collaborative opportunities. 

Looking ahead: Strategic expansions and workforce development 

The meeting also spotlighted several strategic infrastructure projects, most notably the expansion of the Mead Substation in Nevada as well as workforce initiatives aimed at enhancing flexibility and addressing the increasing workload. LeBeau’s announcement of a modest workforce expansion underscored WAPA’s commitment to effectively meeting its operational and strategic goals. 

Continued collaboration 

The day concluded with closing remarks from Lawrence and an open house session, which provided an opportunity for further networking and discussion with WAPA leadership. The 2024 Annual Customer Meeting not only offered comprehensive insights into WAPA’s current initiatives and challenges but also set the stage for continued collaboration and innovation in the pursuit of a resilient and sustainable energy future. 

As WAPA navigates the complexities of the modern energy landscape, its focus on safety, resilience and strategic growth remains unwavering. The organization’s commitment to engaging with its customers and stakeholders ensures that it remains well-positioned to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. 

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