Bonneville Power "Subscriptions" Seen Among Sticky Issues
A panel of governors in the Pacific Northwest expects to issue a plan this month that proposes a restructured Bonneville Power Administration, primed for the regional free-market electric economy.
The panel would act on a steering committee report that resolved pressing energy matters in the Northwest. But the committee report left open other issues that some say could leave the BPA's future in doubt.
The 20-member Steering Committee of the Comprehensive Review of the Northwest Energy System issued its report December 12. Picking it up from there was the Northwest Energy Review Transition Board, which includes governors' reps from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
The plan recommends that state regulators offer open access to electric customers no later than July 1999. It also suggests that BPA transmission facilities should be operated independently of generation plants, and that an independent grid operator should oversee Bonneville and other major transmission owners. Any changes in the agency would require federal approval.
What could prove more important, however, are three key issues the Review left unresolved.
• BPA Debt. The steering committee made clear that the BPA could provide an economic edge in attracting and keeping business. However, it left open certain points crucial to BPA's survival (em and its bottom line. The BPA, after all, remains $14 billion in debt, with about half representing construction debt from failed nuclear plants taken on via the Northwest Power Planning Act of 1980.