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People, dollars behind Western’s mission Pie chart of Western's sources of funding

by Lisa Meiman

Western’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request totals nearly $1.1 billion, which includes about $93.6 million in appropriations, $714.6 in power and transmission sales receipts and $278.9 in alternative financing.

But just how does this money, and the people who use it, support Western’s mission?

To answer that question, Chief Strategy Officer Theresa Williams and Budget Analyst Janis Lewis, both based out of Lakewood, Colorado, mapped where Western’s people and FY 2015 budget resources are being deployed.

“There is always interest, internally and externally, over whether Western is applying the right amount of resources to our mission and keeping costs as low as possible and providing highly valued services,” said Williams. “By identifying where our money and people are, we can illustrate how they are supporting key elements of our mission.”

The result of their work reveals that most of Western’s 1,435 employees spend their time ensuring the reliability of the transmission grid and that most funds are spent in marketing, which is unsurprising as it holds the hefty $441 million Purchase Power and Wheeling price tag.

“This graphic provides a compelling story about how Western is effectively applying and managing its resources to both deliver on our mission and operate our system safely, securely and reliably,” said Administrator Mark Gabriel.Graphic of where Western's employees and funding are deployed for Fiscal Year 2015

Process behind charts

To determine where Western’s resources were being used, the pair first identified four major areas where Western employees work:

  • Marketing, including Power Marketing and Public Affairs
  • Delivery, including Engineering and Operations
  • Reliability, including the host of functions that maintain the transmission grid and its operations such as Maintenance, Natural Resources and Information Technology
  • Cost-based and related services, which are those functional areas, often both overhead and direct charges, that enable the other three groups to do their jobs, such as General Counsel, Procurement and Human Resources

“The first step was to hone in on a handful of the distinct elements of Western’s mission that could serve as home base for each of Western’s functional activities” said Williams. “Those four elements rose to the surface.”

Then, using the functional breakouts in the FY 2015 budget request, Williams and Lewis assigned each functional group in Western to one category and a corresponding budget amount. Lewis shared, “Each budget line developed by the regions during Western’s budget formulation cycle was cross-walked, or mapped, to a functional category and subsequently further mapped to a mission element.”

Some ties are obvious, such as Marketing including all the Power Marketing staff and marketing costs within Western, including purchase power and wheeling expenses, which is the reason Marketing accounts for a whopping 54 percent of Western’s budget but only 12 percent of the employees. Some are less so, such as Engineering tied to delivery or Natural Resources to reliability. “There was as much art to this as science,” said Williams. “We used facts, professional judgment and experience when mapping with the intent of providing an illustration that gives an overall good picture, and I think we achieved that.”

Important to note is that the Transmission Infrastructure Program, both its budget and staff, are excluded from this exercise as they are functionally and financially separate from the hydropower mission.