Mainzer Tells Power Council that Bonneville
by Ted Sickinger
Elliot Mainzer made his first appearance before the Northwest Power & Conservation Council on Tuesday as the administrator of Bonneville Power Administration.
The council is the four-state compact charged with developing an energy forecast and resource strategy for the region every five years, and Bonneville, effectively the biggest utility in the region, is required by the Northwest Power Act to make resource decisions that are consistent with those plans.
Mainzer was sworn in last month as Bonneville's top executive, a position he had been serving in since July, when BPA's top two executives were put on administrative leave amid investigations into violations of federal hiring practices at the power marketing agency.
At Tuesday's meeting council members were particularly interested in hearing from Mainzer about BPA's plans on energy efficiency. The council recently sent a letter to BPA expressing concern that the power marketing agency was backing away from the level of capital expenditures necessary to achieve the council's goals on energy efficiency in its most recent power plan. The plan calls for the region to meet 85 percent of demand growth during the next 20 years with conservation measures, and provides interim targets to achieve that goal.
Mainzer assured the council members that BPA's commitment to energy efficiency is solid and that it was still aiming to hit the council's target. At the same time, he said, "we need to be realistic" about the challenges BPA is facing and the competing demands on its resources.
Over the next decade, Mainzer said, BPA is forecasting capital expenditure demands of about $10 billion to maintain and upgrade the federal hydroelectric and transmission systems, invest in fish and wildlife programs and fund energy efficiency efforts. "All these things are part of a big whole," he said.
One council member asked Mainzer if BPA could do anything to motivate the public utilities it serves to go after more efficiency, such as providing rate credits. Mainzer had few answers on that front.
Mainzer told the council he had spent the last several months bunkered in BPA's headquarters dealing with aftermath of the agency's hiring scandal. He said he never would have suspected his life would take the course it did, and described the agency's hiring fiasco as a "tragic situation."
Nevertheless, he said BPA was making solid progress on its get well plan, with human resources staff having completed 100 percent of required training to be compliant with federal hiring procedures. He said the agency about halfway through the hiring cases that it is reconstructing as a result of hiring violations that disadvantaged veterans and other applicants.
"We are where we are," he said. "We're looking forward."
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