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Native American Interview: Tim Meeks, Western Area Power Administration

Tim Meeks

Tim Meeks, Western Area Power Administration

Native American Interview: Tim Meeks, Western Area Power Administration

Date: 8/31/2007

Q. You have stated your desire to continue helping tribal customers achieve economic self-sufficiency. What specific plans or policies do you wish to implement toward this end?

A. Currently, Western has 93 firm and non-firm tribal customers receiving allocations of Federal hydropower. In addition, we recently allocated power to five new tribes from the Parker-Davis resource pool, effective October 1, 2008.

I'd like to start by saying that I don't presume to have all the answers. Through formal consultation on projects and informal discussions, I plan to listen to our tribal customers to learn how they view Western's role and what Western can do to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency through energy-related activities. Working together, I believe we can make a difference.

We are already working on a number of fronts. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) directed the Secretary of Energy to conduct a study on tribal use of Federal hydro¬power and the barriers that impede tribal access to Federal power. Western has prepared the Tribal Allocation Study on behalf of the power marketing agencies. Although the final study is under review at DOE prior to submission to Congress, I can tell you that Western intends to be flexible in allowing the use of Federal power allocations by tribes.

In addition, Western is willing to act as an agent, on a pass-through cost basis, in the sale of tribal energy/renewable energy attributes to third parties. Also, Western's Upper Great Plains Region recently issued a request for customer expression of interest in purchasing Native American wind energy or renewable energy credits. The response was encouraging, and we've sent all responses to the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (COUP) and encouraged COUP to contact the entities.

Q. Through what channels within Western should tribal groups seek your aid and assistance on energy resource and economic self-sufficiency issues? Who are the points of contact and what is their contact information?

A. A good starting point is Western's Native American Liaison, Steve Tromly. If Steve can't help directly, he can connect you with the appropriate regional contact person. You can reach Steve by phone at (720) 962-7256 or by e-mail at tromly@wapa.gov.

To work directly at a more local level, each of our regions also has a point of contact.

  • Upper Great Plains: Bob Riehl, Power Marketing Manager, (406) 247-7394.
  • Rocky Mountain: Ron Steinbach, Federal Power Program Manager, (970) 461-7322.
  • Sierra Nevada: Bob Chesky, Regional Regulatory and Marketing Advisor, (916) 353-4482
  • Desert Southwest: Brian Young, Power Contracts and Energy Services Manager, (602) 605-2594.
  • Colorado River Storage Project Management Center: Brad Warren, Colorado River Storage Project Program Manager, (801) 524-6372.

Q. As hydropower resources remain static or even decrease, and with the demand for electricity continuing to grow throughout Western's territory, how do you envision tribal entities helping alleviate this situation?

A. Today, tribes stand on the edge of a new era of economic development, with access to a range of resources, including energy development. Biomass and wind are two important tools in the renewable energy toolbox.

The Wind/Hydro Feasibility Study authorized in EPAct 2005, Section 2606, is one attempt to evaluate ways to blend resources. The study will examine the feasibility of using wind power from tribal projects to supply firming power to Western. Western will work with tribes within our Upper Great Plains Region to study potential wind projects that could be developed on tribal land. Energy would be sold to Western to help meet our firm power commitments.

The goal of the study is to evaluate several projects in order to present a range of projects to Congress, some where project development would be easier (closer to transmission) and others where development would be more challenging (e.g., out of Western's control area or far from transmission.) The Blackfeet, Fort Peck, and Santee Sioux tribes, as well as Intertribal COUP, each have provided a tribal engineer to participate on the study team. We expect to complete the study and make recommendations to Congress in 2008.

Other opportunities for tribes include making their Federal power allocations go further by adopting cost-effective energy efficiency measures identified in tribal Integrated Resource Plans and developing other energy projects on their reservations to meet regional demand, promoting tribal economics and energy self-sufficiency.

Q. With regards to development of wind resources within the Western service territory, what issues do you see on the near-term horizon that Western wants to tackle and champion?

A. Western has 277 MW of wind already interconnected, and more than 12,000 MW of additional interconnections for wind have been requested.

One area where we can make it easier for wind generators to connect to the grid is through innovative rates and products. For example, we proposed long-term, non-firm transmission service more than 2 years ago. Our Rocky Mountain Region adopted an energy imbalance rate that did not assess penalties for wind. Conditional firm transmission service will be adopted by Western as part of our implementation efforts of FERC Order # 890.

While our Dakota Wind Transmission Study showed that our existing transmission system has non-firm capacity available to accommodate the addition of some wind generation, we know that larger-scale development of new resources requires new transmission. Western has broad authority to build transmission to market hydroelectricity, enhance reliability, and avoid excessive wheeling charges. EPAct 2005 expanded that authority to authorize Western to construct transmission to alleviate congestion in national interest electric corridors. Congress is considering renewable energy zone legislation that could further expand our role. We can be part of the solution.

Western is involved with several wind integration efforts. In addition to the Wind/Hydro Integration Study, we are participating with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in a multi-state wind integration study in the WestConnect footprint. We also participated with NREL in a study on the impacts of high penetration of wind generation on control area operations. In the Desert Southwest Region, Arizona Power Authority is exploring integration of wind with their Boulder Canyon Project allocation.

Q. Could you please address Western's role in DOE's National Electric Transmission Congestion Study and how you see Western aiding DOE in solving this challenge?

A. While Western did not participate in conducting the study, we have reviewed it, and we see opportunities to participate in solutions.

With more than 17,000 miles of transmission lines throughout most of the western and central United States, we have a responsibility, obligation, and opportunity to help alleviate transmission congestion. EPAct 2005, Section 1222, authorizes Western to upgrade or construct new transmission facilities in national interest electric corridors with bonding authority up to $100 million to facilitate third-party financing. In the construction of Path 15 in California, we were able to leverage our expertise with financing provided by third parties to construct a much-needed and long-delayed enhancement to the bulk transmission grid. Western provided overall project management, construction management, land acquisition, and environmental analysis.

Q. Please share with us what you feel are some of the greatest challenges you face as the new Western administrator?

A. These are exciting times, filled with change and possibility. In the face of the daily-changing political and regulatory landscape, it's a challenge to walk the tightrope between where we've been and where we want and need to go, and to make the journey in a way that still meets our statutory obligations.

This information was last updated on August 31, 2007