Seeking More Info from WAPA

By Steven Johnson, Staff Writer

An Arizona G&T official backed legislation in the House of Representatives aimed at getting the Western Area Power Administration to explain how it puts together its wholesale power rates.

“I cannot fully explain in detail why rates from Western have increased,” said Patrick Ledger, CEO of Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO) in Benson.

“The reason why I am at a lost to explain in depth why Western rates have increased is that I, and other Western customers, lack the details as to how Western utilizes its budget authority,” he told the House Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans at a May 18 hearing.

H.R. 2371, authored by Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., would require the WAPA administrator to establish a pilot project to provide increased transparency for customers.

Under the legislation, WAPA would have to provide detailed accounting on a public website for expenditures, capital costs, and staffing costs on a regional basis and at its headquarters in Lakewood, Colorado.

It also would require WAPA to document changes on an annual basis for the benefit of its customers, which include nearly 60 electric co-ops in the Midwest and Southwest.

“Despite repeated demands from power customers and Congress, WAPA has refused to be transparent about the agency’s expenditures,” said Gosar, pointing to recent problems with sham purchases within WAPA.

The power marketer’s rates for AEPCO have jumped 32 percent in the last five years, Ledger noted.

Ledger noted that WAPA is a large and complex organization, but said that’s all the more reason to improve transparency for its customers.

“If we are more aware of the cost drivers, and if we can have an honest conversation with Western on whether those expenses should be borne by hydropower and/or transmission customers, we can reach solutions to common problems that much more easily,” he said.

A companion bill, S. 930, has been introduced in the Senate.