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Utilities' Plan Outlines How to Slice Up Power

by Bert Caldwell
The Spokesman Review, September 24, 2002

Northwest utilities have agreed on a plan that would divvy up Bonneville Power Administration electricity for 20 years.

The "slice" proposal would end periodic infighting among the utilities by allocating to all a fixed percent of Bonneville power. Each would pay an equal percentage of the agency's costs.

Direct-service customers, mainly the region's aluminum smelters, would be allotted 650 megawatts. That amount is just a fraction of the power required to operate all 10 at full capacity.

The plan, if approved, would kick in Oct. 1, 2006. Existing contracts between Bonneville and the utilities that buy its power would remain in effect until then.

Bonneville and the Northwest Public Power Council will hold a hearing on the slice plan today from 6 to 9 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel Spokane Valley.

The utility plan was outlined in a letter mailed to Bonneville and the NPPC last week by Jerry Leone, manager of the Public Power Council, which represents most of the region's public utilities.

Investor-owned utilities, Avista included, have also endorsed the plan.

That consensus, Leone wrote, is one of its strong points. Also, the long-term contracts will allow each utility to decide for itself how best to obtain whatever additional electricity might be needed to supplement that purchased from Bonneville.

Public utilities have traditionally used Bonneville as a buyer. During the 2000-2001 energy crisis, the agency spent hundreds of millions of dollars to keep up with demand. The result was a 46 percent rate increase.

Kootenai Electric Cooperative General Manager Bob Crump sits on the Public Council executive committee. He said the agreement will guarantee Kootenai access to federal power.

The cooperative's projected allotment should fulfill 100 percent of member requirements for a while, Crump said, but eventually the utility will have to locate additional supplies.

Inland Power & Light General Manager Kris Mikkelsen said the Spokane cooperative will probably be able to delay until 2011 the need for non-Bonneville electricity.

"The overarching concern is being sure we keep the benefits of the federal system in this region," she said.

Jeff Schlect, Avista's manager for regional power issues, said the utility supports the "historic" plan because all the region's utilities will be served.

Although Avista does not receive any Bonneville power, it does receive cash that is passed through to residential and small-farm customers.

Schlect said Avista will receive $11 million annually until Sept. 30, 2006. After that, the amount will depend on what Bonneville charges other customers for power, he said.

Bert Caldwell
Utilities' Plan Outlines How to Slice Up Power
The Spokesman Review September 24, 2002

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