The Bonneville Power Administration is launching a new public process to enhance energy efficiency programs in the Pacific Northwest. This comes on the heels of a banner year for BPA and its customer utilities, as the agency significantly surpassed its regional conservation goal. The new public process will facilitate improvements on this successful efficiency effort.

Numerous factors are driving BPA's initiative to update its energy efficiency program including new state regulations requiring energy efficiency, a need to meet increasing electricity demand and a national focus on energy independence. BPA's focus on energy efficiency also supports the new administration's goals of enhancing the economy, securing energy independence and reducing greenhouse gases. The process will start with a Jan. 27 kick-off meeting at BPA's headquarters in Portland, Ore.

"BPA wants to hear directly from customers and other regional stakeholders," says Mike Weedall, BPA vice president of Energy Efficiency. "BPA is in listening mode. We want input about the role BPA should play in developing, incentivizing and monitoring energy efficiency programs."

The region has been a national leader in energy efficiency for more than 30 years, and 2008 served as a landmark for BPA in terms of surpassing its regional goal. In partnership with its utility customers, the agency captured over 76 average megawatts of new conservation savings against a target of 52 average megawatts. This translates to the equivalent power consumption of about 65,000 households in the Pacific Northwest.

"The region is tremendously successful in providing power resources in the form of energy efficiency," Weedall adds. "But times are changing, and the region needs to continue with a pro-active strategy. This comprehensive public conversation is a great place to start."

The public process will also help define BPA's future role in energy efficiency after 2011, when a new tiered rate structure kicks in as part of new long-term power sales contracts. Energy efficiency is affected by this new rate structure because tiered rates provide a financial incentive for utilities to acquire the least-cost resources to avoid paying market rate power prices for new load growth.