Bonneville Power Administration

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bonneville Power Administration
Bonneville Power Administration (logo, 2015).svg
Agency overview
FormedAugust 20, 1937; 85 years ago (1937-08-20)
JurisdictionU.S. government
HeadquartersPortland, Oregon, U.S.
Agency executive
Parent agency U.S. Department of Energy Edit this at Wikidata

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is an American federal agency operating in the Pacific Northwest. BPA was created by an act of Congress in 1937 to market electric power from the Bonneville Dam located on the Columbia River and to construct facilities necessary to transmit that power. Congress has since designated Bonneville to be the marketing agent for power from all of the federally owned hydroelectric projects in the Pacific Northwest. Bonneville is one of four regional Federal power marketing agencies within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).


Bonneville Power Administration (system map, October 2020).svg
BPA Transmission Line Bonneville Power Administration (system map, federal dam icon).svg Federal Dam
Non-BPA Line BPA Service Area

The power generated on BPA's grid is sold to public utilities, private utilities, and industry on the grid. The excess is sold to other grids in Canada, California and other regions. Because BPA is a public entity, it does not make a profit on power sales or from providing transmission services. BPA also coordinates with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to regulate flow of water in the Columbia River and to carry out environmental projects such as salmon restoration.

Although BPA is part of the DOE, it is self-funded and covers its costs by selling its products and services at cost. The BPA provides about 28% of the electricity used in the region. BPA transmits and sells wholesale electricity in eight western states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.[1]

BPA now markets the electricity from thirty-one federal hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries, as well as from the Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear plant located on the Hanford Site in eastern Washington. BPA has more than 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of electrical lines and 261 substations in the Pacific Northwest and controls approximately 75 percent of the high-voltage (230 kV and higher) transmission capacity in the region.[1]

BPA also maintains connection lines with other power grids. It connects to the California high-voltage transmission system by Path 66, which consists of the two 500 kV AC lines of the Pacific AC Intertie, plus a third 500 kV AC line of the California-Oregon Transmission Project (COTP) (managed by the Balancing Authority of Northern California). Together these three lines are operated as the California-Oregon Intertie (COI) (managed by the California Independent System Operator CAISO). An additional DC ±500 kV line, the Pacific DC Intertie, links BPA's grid at the Celilo Converter Station near The Dalles, Oregon to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) grid 800 miles (1,300 km) away at the Sylmar Converter Station in Los Angeles.

The Northern Intertie crosses the Canada–US border in two locations at Blaine, Washington and Nelway, British Columbia and connects to two BC Hydro AC 500 kV lines and several lower voltage lines.[2]

Because BPA owns and operates transmission equipment and locations, its workers perform its own vegetation management.[3]

BPA uses helicopters to sling load maintenance workers inspecting and repairing power lines.[4]


Logo used to commemorate 75 years of the Bonneville Power Administration.

BPA's first industrial sale was to Alcoa in January 1940, to provide 32,500 kilowatts of power.[5] This, and the following 162,500 kilowatt order, led to complaints of the Bonneville Power Act's anti-monopoly clause.[5] The cheap price of aluminum from Alcoa helped aluminum sales grow in the post-World War II market.[5]

Overly optimistic estimates of future electricity consumption by BPA in the 1960s led the agency to guarantee some bonds for the disastrous Washington Public Power Supply System nuclear power project. Out of five nuclear power plants started (WNP-1 and WNP-4, WNP-3 and WNP-5), only WNP-2 was completed. BPA is still making payments on three of the abandoned plants. In 2003, BPA's debt for the nuclear project totaled $6.2 billion.[6]

In 1973, Bill Gates and Paul Allen were hired by Bob Barnett to write software for the PDP-10 computer that managed BPA's power grid and remained in operation until 2013.[7]

In 2014, the BPA Library discovered a collection of old films made by the agency and began posting digital versions of them on the agency's website.[8] Included in the collection is the award-winning documentary "River of Power" which covers the Agency's history from its beginning to the present.[9]

The BPA gives its name to the BPA Trail in Federal Way, Washington, a walking trail built beneath the power transmission lines.


Administrators of the Bonneville Power Administration[10]
Administrator[a] Dates[b]
James D. (J. D.) Ross[c] Oct. 10, 1937 – March 14, 1939
Charles Carey Feb. 2 – May 4, 1939 (acting)[d]
Frank Banks May 4 – Sept. 15, 1939 (interim / acting)
Paul J. Raver[e] Sept. 16, 1939 – Jan. 14, 1954
William A. Pearl Jan. 15, 1954 – Feb. 14, 1961
Charles F. Luce Feb. 15, 1961 – Aug. 30, 1966
David S. Black Aug. 31, 1966 – Sept. 7, 1967
H.R. Richmond Sept. 8, 1967 – Oct. 19, 1967 (acting)
Donald P. Hodel Dec. 1, 1972 – Dec. 19, 1977
S. Sterling Munro, Jr. Jan. 1978 – Feb. 1981
Earl Gjelde Feb. – May 1981 (acting)
Peter T. Johnson May 1981 – July 1986
James J. Jura July 1986 – Aug. 1991
Jack Robertson Aug. – Oct. 1991 (acting)
Randall W. Hardy Oct. 1991 – Sept. 1997
Jack Robertson Oct. 1997 – June 1998 (acting)
Judith A. Johansen June 1998 – Sept. 2000
Stephen J. Wright Sept. 2000 – Feb. 2002 (acting)
March 2002 – Feb. 2013
William K. Drummond Jan. 2013 – Jan. 2014
Elliot Mainzer July 2013 – Jan. 2014 (acting)
Jan. 2014 – Sept. 2020
John L. Hairston Sept 2020 - Mar. 2021 (acting)
Mar. 2021 - (present)


  1. ^ The position title varied in the early years as shown in the reference; since William Pearl, the title has consistently been 'Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration'.
  2. ^ The start date shown is the earliest date when the person was named to the position or when showed up for the job. The "effective" appointment date wasn't always precise but was always after the date of announcement, and sometimes before and sometimes after the date the individual actually began work on the job. Likewise, the swearing-in date was sometimes before and sometimes after the start of actual work in the position.
  3. ^ Power administrator of the Bonneville Project
  4. ^ During Ross' illness and after his death
  5. ^ Administrator, Bonneville Power Project, later Bonneville Power Administration

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "BPA Facts 2016" (PDF). Bonneville Power Administration. March 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  2. ^ "BPA to automate transmission curtailment procedure for the Puget Sound Area" (PDF). September 2007.
  3. ^ Mason, Stacy L. (2000-06-23). "Bonneville Power Administration Transmission System Vegetation Management Program Final Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0285)". Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (FS). Retrieved 2022-07-16.
  4. ^ Head, Elan. "On The Line: Training with BPA and Priority 1 Air Rescue" Vertical, 28 October 2014. Accessed: 30 October 2014.
  5. ^ a b c MacColl, E. Kimbark (1979). The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915–1950. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press. ISBN 0-9603408-1-5.
  6. ^ Northwest Council: "BPA History", accessed 16 November 2019
  7. ^ "Legacy computer system retires after keeping the lights on for 38 years". Bonneville Power Administration. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved November 16, 2019.
  8. ^ Film-Vault, accessed 16 November 2019
  9. ^ River of Power (1987) film, accessed 16 November 2019
  10. ^ "Administrators of BPA". Bonneville Power Administration. Retrieved February 2, 2016.


External links[edit]

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from BPA Fast Facts - Fiscal Year 2006 (PDF). United States Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-27.