BPA Chief Steve Wright
by Ted Sickinger
Steve Wright, long-serving chief executive of Bonneville Power Administration, will retire at the end of January, the agency said Tuesday.
Wright, 54, has led the federal power marketing agency since November 2000, first as the acting administrator before being appointed permanently in 2002. He is the second-longest serving BPA administrator, and joined BPA in an entry-level job in 1981.
BPA is the key player in the regional energy market. It sells power from 31 federal hydroelectric dams and a nuclear plant, directly supplying 140 public utilities and selling a good chunk of the power that goes into the Northwest's wholesale electricity market. It controls three quarters of the region's transmission network, so its operations, policies and strategic direction impact every utility, and every power consumer, in the region.
The administrators job is a balancing act of serving multiple, competing and very passionate interests, not only in the public and private utility sphere, but environmental, industrial, tribal, recreational and agricultural groups. BPA, for instance, is the focus of efforts to restore endangered salmon, to increase energy efficiency and to integrate more intermittent sources of renewable energy into the region's energy mix. Its cheap rates have been a mainstay of the economy and efforts to recruit more jobs.
Wright tenure has often been tumultuous, with a surfeit of litigation at the 9th Circuit Court. The underlying issue is often how BPA divvies up the considerable benefits of cheap, federal hydro system among various stakeholders in the region. Under Wright, BPA has adopted controversial policies when it comes to integrating wind power into the grid, and run into stiff opposition in efforts to expand BPA's transmission network. He locked horns in court over salmon policies with tribal and environmental groups, who have criticized BPA's focus on habitat restoration rather than changing the operation of the dams -- or removing some -- to promote fish passage.
. . .
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs