Western Area Power Administration
Western Area Power Administration, or Western, sells and transmits wholesale power from 56 hydropower plants and one coal-fired plant operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the International Boundary and Water Commission. The combined annual generation averages more than 25,000 gigawatt-hours per year, which could supply 100 percent of power needs for 2.3 million American homes at prices lower than market averages.
The agency is one of four power marketing administrations within the U.S. Department of Energy whose role is to market and transmit wholesale electricity from multi-use water projects. Its service area encompasses a 15-state region of the central and western U.S. where its more than 17,000 circuit-mile transmission system carries electricity from the powerplants to preference power customers usually identified in Congressional legislation. Preference power customers include federal and state agencies, cities and towns, rural electric cooperatives, public utility districts, irrigation districts and Native American tribes. They, in turn, provide retail electric service to 40 million consumers in the West.
Western employees conduct power sales, transmission operations and maintenance and engineering services at 49 duty stations throughout our service area. Its main offices include a headquarters office in Lakewood, Colorado; regional offices in Billings, Montana; Loveland, Colorado; Phoenix, Arizona; and Folsom, California; and the Colorado River Storage Project Management Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 2014 Western published its Strategic Roadmap that defines what Western will look like and what role it will play in the energy frontier, with its customers and within the federal government in 2024. The Roadmap provides the vision that will help the agency deliver on its mission, manage resources effectively and operate safely, securely and reliably to move the agency in one direction, meet its customers’ needs and provide the best value as an organization. Through Strategic Roadmap 2024, Western will power the energy frontier for the benefit of generations to come.
Western’s employees work around the clock to sell power and operate and maintain an integrated 17,100 circuit-mile, high-voltage transmission system that serves as the backbone of energy delivery in the West. As one of the top 10 largest transmission providers in the U.S., Western is at the forefront of modernizing the electric grid for a new energy frontier. This includes accommodating intermittent renewable generation, enhancing cyber and physical security, investing in more efficient infrastructure and ensuring reliable, uninterrupted power to its customers.
Unlike most federal agencies, Western is nearly self-sufficient. In addition to paying back nearly all of its annual appropriations, Western also is repaying the U.S. Treasury for its initial capital investments in the federal dams and transmission infrastructure, plus interest.
Three lines of business
• Power Marketing — After meeting project-use needs, Western sells hydropower to specific nonprofit entities called preference power customers under long-term contracts at cost-based rates. Once contractual obligations are met, Western sells surplus power in the open market at market prices. Western also provides short-term, interruptible and seasonal energy sales to accommodate customer needs.
• Transmission — Western’s more than 17,000 circuit-mile transmission system is first reserved to deliver the contracted hydropower to customers. All remaining capacity, or space on a transmission line, can be purchased by other utilities in the open market for their energy deliveries. Western also provides the ancillary services necessary to support transmission system operations.
• Transmission Infrastructure Program — Introduced at Western in 2009, TIP leverages Western’s transmission project development expertise to advance projects aimed at expanding and modernizing the electric grid. The program manages Western’s $3.25 billion borrowing authority to support the development of projects that facilitate delivery of renewable energy resources.
On Dec. 21, 1977, high gas prices and an emphasis on conservation led Congress to create the Department of Energy, including Western Area Power Administration—a new power marketing administration to sell and deliver hydropower across 15 central and western states. Our nation still has some of these same concerns, as well as new energy industry issues that are cropping up every day. This makes Western's mission of delivering clean, renewable energy all the more crucial to meeting today's energy demands. Learn more about Western's history and the history of the utility industry:
- Utility industry develops: "Shining light on the utility industry's development"
- 25 years: "Serving the West: Western's First 25 years as a Power Marketing Agency"
- 30 years: "Looking back and looking ahead"
- 35 years: "A time of exponential change"