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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 26, 2014
CONTACT: Randy Wilkerson, 720-962-7050, PublicAffairs@wapa.gov

WESTERN ADMINISTRATOR OUTLINES PRIORITIES
Mark Gabriel testifies on Western’s accomplishments and spending priorities

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — In testimony before the Water and Power Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee March 25, Western Area Power Administration Administrator Mark Gabriel focused on how Western is delivering on its mission to market and deliver clean, renewable, reliable, cost-based federal hydroelectric power and related services; managing resources effectively; and operating safely, securely and reliably through strategic planning, asset management, sustainable funding and human capital management.

“Western’s more than 1,400 employees manage more than 17,000 circuit-miles of transmission, 328 substations, 177,000 structures, covering a footprint of more than 1.3 million square miles, making us one of the top 10 largest transmission providers in the United States,” he said.

Gabriel described the challenges Western faces in preparing for a new energy frontier, “…there is no doubt the transmission system must be operated differently in the future than it was envisioned or constructed.  The existing system has served well for more than 50 years, but it was not designed to handle large-scale, intermittent generation in real time.  Hundreds of communities depend on Western to provide reliable service, not only now, but also in the future.

“Western customers benefit with reasonable rates today from investments made yesterday,” he added.  “They will benefit from reasonable rates tomorrow due to investments we are making with them today.  Low-cost Federal hydropower was a cornerstone in the development of the West, and it remains a key element in the economic life in maintaining strong communities.”

Gabriel told the Subcommittee members about Western’s plan to accommodate the changes in the electric industry while still keeping rates reasonable for customers, “To continue excellent support for our customers and others, we need to consider the state of our assets and our needs in the future. Through active collaboration with customers, stakeholders, DOE, and our employees, we have developed a strategic roadmap to create a clear vision of our role in the industry, with our customers and within the Federal Government. The roadmap serves as the guide to deliver on our mission in a changing industry through 2024 and beyond.”

Finally, Gabriel shared a review of Western’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request. Western is requesting a net appropriation of $70.6 million. Approximately 8.6 percent of Western's mission requirement is funded through appropriations. The balance is funded through a combination of offsetting collections and alternative financing (including customer cash advances), which are used to fund a variety of Western activities including expenses, purchase power and wheeling and construction.

Gabriel concluded by telling the Subcommittee, “Working together with our customers, we are repaying our expenses with interest, ensuring that the beneficiary pays and keeping costs down through sound business practices to be good stewards of the public’s resources.”

The Subcommittee has archived the webcast of the entire hearing on its website at http://resources.edgeboss.net/wmedia/resources/113/2014_03_25_wp.wvx. The entire text of Western’s testimony is available at http://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/gabrieltestimony3-25-14.pdf. The text of Gabriel’s remarks to the Subcommittee follow.

Mark Gabriel, Administrator, Western Area Power Administration
Remarks before the Subcommittee on Water and Power, House Natural Resources Committee
March 25, 2014

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.  My name is Mark Gabriel.  I am the Administrator of the Western Area Power Administration. 

I will be highlighting a number of steps Western is taking to deliver on our mission and support the energy frontier in cooperation with our customers and stakeholders.  We are working on several major initiatives, each of which will greatly affect how we do business today and, more importantly, how we will conduct business in the future.  I will also describe some of our accomplishments that continue to build and sustain strong communities throughout the western United States. Finally, I will provide an overview of Western’s FY 2015 Budget.

Western markets and delivers clean, renewable, reliable, cost-based hydroelectric power and related services.  Western’s more than 1,400 employees manage more than 17,000 circuit-miles of transmission, 328 substations, 177,000 structures, covering a footprint of more than 1.3 million square miles making us one of the top 10 largest transmission providers in the United States.

To continue excellent support for our customers and others, we need to consider the state of our assets and our needs in the future.  Through active collaboration with customers, stakeholders, DOE, and our employees, we have developed a strategic roadmap to create a clear vision of our role in the industry, with our customers, and within the Federal Government.  The roadmap serves as the guide to deliver on our mission in a changing industry through 2024 and beyond.  To be clear, Western is not changing its mission, but exploring how that mission is best implemented in a changing world.

With a solid vision of where Western is headed and the roadmap to get there, we need to understand where we are today.  Asset management helps provide that picture.  Improvements to our asset management program enables Western staff to create near real-time data-driven asset condition and capital investment recommendations.  Using this information, Western and its customers can plan system investments.

One of the most critical needs facing Western today is the ability to acquire adequate capital funding to make infrastructure investments and sustain the level of reliability that Western and its customers have historically enjoyed and expect, while at the same time maintaining affordable services.  Data available from our Asset Management Program, the Western-wide 10-year capital investment plan and a solid funding strategy will provide the analytical basis to articulate Western’s infrastructure needs. 

The best plans can only be accomplished with the best people, and Western’s goals require a dedicated staff.  Western employees are well-trained and highly committed to their work.  By using effective workforce and succession planning, Western will ensure it has the right people in the right places across the Organization.

I am proud of all we have accomplished in the past year.  Western’s focus clearly remains on three areas—maintaining and repairing existing infrastructure, preparing and managing for new and existing demands on the system, and fiscal responsibility.

Maintaining that system is a key element in keeping the lights on for communities, businesses and families throughout the West.

As we approach a new energy frontier, there is no doubt the transmission system must be operated differently in the future than it was envisioned or constructed.  The existing system has served well for more than 50 years, but it was not designed to handle large-scale, intermittent generation in real time.  Hundreds of communities depend on Western to provide reliable service, not only now, but also in the future.

To be ready for that future, we must prepare today.  Western customers benefit with reasonable rates today from investments made yesterday.  They will benefit from reasonable rates tomorrow due to investments we are making with them today.  Low-cost Federal hydropower was a cornerstone in the development of the West, and it remains a key element in the economic life in maintaining strong communities. 

Threats to our security, both physical and cyber, have become more visible in recent years and continue to escalate.  We have separated our Safety and Security programs and centralized our Security program to increase responsiveness, consistency, communication, and accountability.   

Western is requesting Congress appropriate $93.4 million for its Construction, Rehabilitation, Operation, and Maintenance Account and $0.2 million for the Falcon and Amistad Operating and Maintenance Fund in FY 2015.

Western estimates the FY 2015 priority construction program need is $86.6 million.  Of this amount, we will be seeking alternative financing of $74.4 million, or approximately 86 percent of the FY 2015 requirement to fund Western’s Construction and Rehabilitation program. 

Working together with our customers, we are repaying our expenses with interest, ensuring that the beneficiary pays and keeping costs down through sound business practices to be good stewards of the public’s resources.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I would be pleased to answer any questions that you or the Subcommittee members may have.

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