Association’s Patterson emphasizes importance of coalitions; letter touts BPA strengths

When it comes to a wide range of significant electric policy issues, the American Public Power Association sees value in partnering with other trade groups and industry participants to make its voice heard on issues such as transmission costs, wholesale markets and cybersecurity, said Delia Patterson, Senior Vice President, Advocacy & Communications and General Counsel at the Association.

In a recent example of what Patterson described, the Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in October sent a letter to members of the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation in which the groups said that the Bonneville Power Administration and the federal hydropower it markets “will continue to provide value to the region and nation for decades to come.”

Patterson made her comments at a Women In Energy breakfast held on Oct. 16. at an Energy Bar Association meeting in Washington, D.C.

She said that when it comes to various power industry issues, her first thought is how can the Association “align ourselves with others in the industry on an issue – we tend to do better and I think anybody tends to do better when you’re in a coalition.”

She said that “it’s very important for all of us to know where various stakeholders are on different issues. You just never know where you’re going to find support.” The Association needs to know which parties “within the beltway and outside the beltway that are on the same page with us,” Patterson said.

“Although we feel like we’re a little different as public power, we do have a lot in common with our IOU [investor-owned utility] and co-op brethren,” Patterson noted.

“We’re not aligned on every issue, but there are many issues that we’re aligned on,” the Association official said.

Patterson said that the Association is usually on the same page with the Edison Electric Institute, which represents IOUs, and the NRECA, when it comes to cybersecurity issues. When it comes to issues tied to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, “we’re similarly aligned.”

In the area of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission jurisdiction, the three trade groups are on the same page with respect to FERC’s Order No. 841. That decision adopted rules aimed at removing barriers to the participation of energy storage resources in wholesale power markets operated by regional transmission organizations and independent system operators.

The Association, NRECA, EEI, the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners and American Municipal Power are jointly appealing Order No. 841 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on jurisdictional grounds.

“Something like FERC jurisdiction – that, to me, is an existential threat to what we believe in, what we control and local authority,” Patterson said. She knew even before asking Emily Fisher, general counsel and corporate secretary at EEI, and Randy Elliott, regulatory counsel at NRECA, that “they would be on board for appealing that order.”

Meanwhile, the Association, NRECA and EEI agree on the need for reforms of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). FERC in September proposed to modernize its regulations under PURPA.

“We work really well together with NRECA on PMA and TVA issues,” she said. The Association and NRECA earlier this year voiced opposition to renewed federal efforts to sell the transmission assets of three federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) transmission assets and change the current cost-based rates structure for all four of the PMAs.

When it comes to wholesale power markets, the Association is generally aligned with NRECA, consumer advocates, states, end users and renewable energy supporters, Patterson noted.

The Association is also in agreement with NRECA, consumer advocates and end users with respect to transmission issues. In August, the two trade groups were joined by more than 40 entities in sending a letter to FERC that said the agency should strive to ensure that transmission costs remain at a reasonable level for consumers as it weighs possible changes to its transmission incentives and return on equity policies.

In a recent blog, Patterson wrote that the “robust pace of transmission development over the past decade indicates that there is no need for FERC to loosen the incentive purse strings now to get transmission projects built.”

Patterson told the group of energy attorneys that “it’s important to understand generally where different folks are situated within the industry.” If attorneys in the energy sector are working on a particular issue, they should think about “who am I likely to be aligned with? Could we form a coalition?”

NRECA, Association detail how BPA is well positioned to provide long-term value

In early October, Sue Kelly, President and CEO of the Association, and Jim Matheson, CEO of NRECA, sent a letter to members of the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation in which they said BPA and the federal hydropower it markets “will continue to provide value to the region and nation for decades to come.”

BPA rates are set to cover all the generation and transmission costs, as well as repayment, with interest, of the federal hydropower projects, the letter notes. None of the costs are borne by taxpayers.

“Moreover, the federal hydroelectric projects for which Bonneville markets power are multipurpose – in addition to generating electricity, they provide flood control, irrigation, navigation services and recreation opportunities. The multipurpose nature of these projects is invaluable to the region and its economy,” Kelly and Matheson said.

They noted that like the entire electric utility industry, BPA is facing a fast-changing electric market landscape and the challenges that transition brings.

“We believe strongly that Bonneville is well-positioned to adapt to changing markets and energy policies to the benefit of consumers and the region,” wrote Kelly and Matheson. “Despite recent press reports of alleged financial distress, Bonneville has high investment-grade credit ratings and, together with its community-owned Northwest customers, is working to reduce costs and maintain competitiveness.”

Kelly and Matheson also noted that hydropower “is the premier renewable resource and offers unparalleled reliability.” As the rest of the country “grapples with how to ensure an affordable and reliable transition to a clean economy, the Pacific Northwest is leaps and bounds ahead. Innate to hydropower are attributes – low cost, non-emitting, and reliable – that are highly desirable energy policy goals that energy markets are moving towards appropriately valuing.”