Bonneville Power Allocation to Hit Aluminum Firms : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Bonneville Power Allocation to Hit Aluminum Firms LCG, Oct. 17, 2000-Bonneville Power Administration, the giant operator of hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest, is putting the finishing touches on electric power supply contracts that will run from October 31, 2001 through September 30, 2006.

It appears that aluminum smelters, who built their mills in the region during and after World War II because of the abundance of power available from Bonneville's dams, will be hardest hit, as the federal agency no longer has power to spare and must go into the market to buy electricity in all but the wettest of years.

Under legislation that created the Bonneville Power Administration, the agency must first serve public power agencies such as municipal utilities, as well as rural cooperatives and a half-dozen government agencies. Much of what is left must go to investor-owned utilities. What is left over has been customarily sold to private industries, such as the aluminum companies.

Where there was once plenty of left over power, population growth in the Northwest and a booming high-tech economy led by Microsoft and Boeing have resulted in a power shortage, just like the rest of the U.S. In an average year, Bonneville has to go into the market and purchase about 1,000 megawatts of capacity.

The aluminum companies would like 3,000 megawatts, but won't get it. In the most recent contract, they received 2,000 megawatts and that will be cut to 1,500 megawatts under the plan allocation now being readied for signature.

The problem bodes ill for California, which in periods of peak demand has come to rely on imported power to meet up to a quarter of its needs. Power available from the Northwest was sharply curtailed during this most recent summer causing supply cutbacks to customers with interruptible service contracts and record high prices in the state's spot electricity market.

There will be less power next summer for California to import from the Northwest and, after Bonneville's new plan goes into effect, none at all.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 18, 2000


Oh, well, aluminum will just become another product we import, adding, substantially to our export-import imbalance.

-- Billiver (, October 19, 2000.

Martin, what are you trying to do? Guarantee that my lights, here in California, will go out next year?

-- JackW (, October 19, 2000.

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