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CIOs Under Pressure

IT officers are getting more efficient, but guess what keeps them up at night?

Fortnightly Magazine - March 2007

so the extent to which we can predict what the weather is going to be, that’s all to our benefit. We also have systems that closely monitor the levels at all of our dams. You probably don’t see those systems in any other businesses.

A lot of these systems are actually homegrown. We do have some vendors that provide some of the information to us, but the systems we use for analysis and to make forecasting models are homegrown.

Fortnightly: How much in-house technological development is going on at BPA, and what level of manpower is behind it?

Buttress: The systems I mentioned are pretty old and have been in place for some time, but looking at what’s coming in the future, energy efficiency is very important at BPA.

Wind power, and integrating wind power with our hydro systems, is getting a lot of attention right now at Bonneville. We don’t yet know what kind of system impacts we’re going to have with that. As an agency, we’re focusing very heavily on wind, working very closely with the Power business line as well as the Transmission business line in energy efficiency to determine what type of system modifications are going to be needed to be able to support those initiatives.

I don’t really have an answer for how long these R&D efforts take, other than to say that it’s a sizable amount of time.

Fortnightly: What specific wind initiatives should people expect to see from BPA in the coming year?

Buttress: There will be more agreements signed with wind-energy suppliers. The challenge we have with wind, of course, is that hydro, for example, is very dependable and easy to control. Wind is not. Sometimes it blows, sometimes it doesn’t. So we have to find a way to augment it. Wind by itself is not going to do it for us, so we have to integrate it within our hydro system or other forms of power generation.

Fortnightly: Hydro may be dependable, but aren’t there droughts and shortages from time to time?

Buttress: Hydro is reliable and clean, but there are droughts and shortages. Those are always challenges for us.

Probably the other challenge for us is our irrigation responsibilities, navigation—the rivers are used by barges—and fish. Fish is a very big deal for us. By court order, we are mandated to mitigate fish loss. Dams and fish inherently don’t go together very well. So we have to make sure we’re providing fish ladders, and we have to test and make sure that we are doing everything that can be done to ensure the safety and survival of fish.

The way it affects me is that we have a system that we call, oddly enough, Pisces, which helps our Fish and Wildlife business line effectively manage the mission that they have. We support them. They are the ones who have overall responsibility for the fish program.

That’s probably another system you aren’t going to find in another business. It has been around about a year and is basically a Web-based service that we