Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) keeps the lights on in the Pacific Northwest. The US Department of Energy power marketing agency operates a transmission grid (with more than 15,200 miles of high-voltage lines) that delivers about 30% of the electrical power consumed in the region. The electricity that BPA wholesales is generated primarily by 31 federal hydroelectric plants (operated by the US Army Corp of Engineers) and one private nuclear facility. BPA also purchases power from other hydroelectric, gas-fired, and wind and solar generation facilities in North America. Founded in 1937, BPA sells power to more than 140 primary customers, mainly public and investor-owned utilities in the Pacific Northwest.
It also sells wholesale power and transmission to about 130 marketers, and has about 420 transmission customers.
BPA's mission statement calls for it to maintain an efficient and reliable power supply by operating a transmission system that can integrate and transmit power from multiple generating sources, while mitigating the system's impacts on fish and wildlife.
In addition, in order to reduce its carbon emissions to meet state and federal requirements, the organization is pushing for new renewable energy sources. In 2012 BPA was buying electricity from a number of wind projects and had more than 4,000 MW of wind power capacity tied in to its transmission grid. BPA is aiming to harness and integrate about 6,000 MW of wind power by 2013.
BPA is also expanding its transmission grid, building three new 500-kilovolt transmission lines to cater to expanding Columbia Gorge wind power. In this regard, in 2011 the company began building a new high-voltage transmission line and substation (the Big Eddy-Knight Transmission Project) that would add more than 1,150 MW of capacity to its transmission grid and accommodate new wind energy sources. In 2012 it completed a separate 79-mile, $216-million line along the Columbia River east of the gorge.
Higher rates helped to boost the company's revenues in 2010. In 2011 increased demand, higher rates, and higher proceeds from dam run-offs lifted BPA's revenues further. Lower operating expenses also allowed BPA to post an improved net income for the year.