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09/11/2020 Portland Update

It’s hard to focus on the update this week as we think about the devastating fires facing many of the communities served by NRU members. Please know that we stand ready to assist you in any way possible as you battle the flames and recover from these tragic fires.

Rate Case Issues Webinar  

Thank you to all who were able to attend our webinar yesterday on BP-22 rate case issues. Your time, attention and feedback is appreciated by all of us here at NRU. If you were not able to attend the webinar and would like to hear the information shared by staff and feedback of members in attendance, please let Ellyn know (egroves@nru-nw.com) and she will forward you a link to the recording of the webinar. We want to make sure all members have an opportunity to hear the important information - presented very well by Megan - and give us their feedback as we formulate comments to be submitted to BPA.


BPA Administrator Selection Update

We continue our efforts to be a factor in and inform the selection of the next BPA Administrator by the Department of Energy (DOE). As part of that effort we had a conversation with Bruce Walker, Assistant Secretary of Energy, Department of Electricity. Fortunately, Bruce and I have previously met each other, and we were able to have a candid and productive discussion regarding the Administrator position.

Bruce kicked off the conversation by clearly stating his understanding of the importance of the position, the criticality of filling the position with an extremely capable person and that DOE does not have anybody lined up or yet chosen for the job. He verbalized his support for John Hairston in the interim role but stressed that DOE intended to conduct a thorough search that would extend through the senior executive ranks of the DOE, the federal government and include postings on the career.gov and usajobs.gov websites to present the opportunity to those not currently in government service. Bruce went on to say their intention is to get the best candidate possible in the position who will be an innovator and embrace the role for the long-term. He also said that DOE does not have a firm timeline for filling the position and is instead focused on conducting a comprehensive process.

Bruce’s initial comments tracked closely to what I had anticipated hearing as I prepared for the conversation, but I was surprised when he introduced the discrepancy between the compensation level of the Administrator and that of a GM or CEO position in public power. He noted that he thought the Administrator compensation (salary) was about $100,000 below where it should be – the BPA Administrator salary is less than $200,000 - and asked if NRU would support an increase that was predicated on BPA meeting certain performance metrics; the metrics are yet to be defined. I shared with Bruce that NRU has consistently advocated for BPA to be financially healthy, make wise investments and achieve affordability over the long-term and that we have not wavered from that position. Offering a competitive salary that would attract capable and willing candidates for the Administrator position is part of that value proposition. Since we have not discussed this yet, I would like to hear feedback from the membership regarding an increased compensation level for the BPA Administrator.

After Bruce shared his perspective on the position, he asked where the sensitivities were for NRU. I reiterated his comments regarding getting the best candidate in the position and adding the necessity of bringing on a proven leader who understood the history of the agency, the statutes governing it and the role of BPA and hydropower as the economic engine of the Pacific Northwest; essentially getting an experienced utility leader from the Pacific Northwest to lead the agency. I went on to emphasize the crucial role BPA plays in the rural communities commonly served by our members as load following customers who often rely on BPA as their sole source of generation. Highlighting that the next Administrator must be cognizant of customers spread across the entirety of BPA’s seven state service territory and their unique needs. I closed with an offer to be a resource to Bruce and the DOE as they work through the process to identify a successor to Elliot Mainzer.

My key takeaways from the conversation were that DOE is committed to appointing a qualified and capable individual through a comprehensive process and that the voice of the NRU membership was heard on this effort at the decision-making levels of DOE. We will continue to stay engaged with DOE throughout the duration of this process and will report out with any pertinent information.

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