Sustainability at the Bonneville Power Administration

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is one of four power marketing administrations included in the U. S. Department of Energy. The organization has a rich history beginning in 1937 when Congress passed the Bonneville Project Act. Since the beginning, the agency has focused on sustainability, both in the power generated and placed on the grid, and in its operations. As the organization with responsibility for marketing the power generated primarily from the hydro-electric dams on the Columbia River that are operated by the U. S. Army, Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation BPA provides electric power to the public utility districts, investor-owned utilities, and government and tribal entities in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and the western part of Montana. This electricity, plus the wind generation and other sources of power that go onto the grid, provide sustainably produced energy to the Pacific Northwest and some electricity to other areas of the Western U. S & Canada.

The residents of the Pacific Northwest have a focus on keeping this part of the country beautiful and maintaining the area both now and into the future. This can be seen by laws passed such as the “Oregon bottle bill” which seeks to keep litter and returnable containers off of public right-of-ways by requiring a deposit on these containers. Like many of the residents of this part of the country, the employees of BPA consider sustainability as well. This can be illustrated by the increasing participation by BPA employees at events such as the electronic item recycling events held at least annually.

With a history and culture that has focused on sustainability at BPA, it follows that sustainability in its operations would be important. There are sustainability initiatives in several teams here. BPA’s sustainability team includes members from across the agency. The team focuses on reducing greenhouse gasses, reductions in electricity use at BPA facilities, and reducing water use. BPA is developing a Sustainability Action Plan for fiscal years 2016-2017. The draft plan includes reduction goals for the use of energy, water, and materials. The plan includes seven sustainability-improvement goals. This team also participates in various community events to improve fish & wildlife habitat and encourage other sustainable practices.

BPA also focuses on sustainability in its acquisition through the Supply Chain Services organization. The agency has a Sustainable Acquisition Program Plan that seeks to identify and purchase products and materials that are the most sustainable options to meet BPA’s internal requirements. This plan is not only the right thing to do but also supports federal executive orders to use sustainable products within the governments. Not only does BPA purchase sustainable materials, but it looks to identify and promote the use of sustainable practices in the services it contracts for. BPA has made efforts to identify the greenhouse gas emissions associated with products and services it buys. Future analysis of this information may identify the greatest opportunities to reduce these emissions.

BPA is moving the needle to improve its sustainability efforts, and knows that more can be done to continue down this path. The sustainability team will consider offering training to the teams across the agency to help them understand what sustainability characteristics BPA should identify in its purchase requirements. Some requisitions are sent to a contracting officer to procure goods or services without a clear understanding of the best sustainability attributes that the agency should be asking for. Both the contracting officers and the client teams need to have a strong understanding of what products and services BPA should ask for and expect. This educational initiative, if put in place, will help BPA achieve a more sustainable future.

BPA joined the Electric Utility Industry Sustainable Supply Chain Alliance (the Alliance) in 2012 to improve our understanding of how to implement sustainability practices as some utilities have done. We have participated on the Supplier Survey work team, to help us and other utilities to support the sustainability growth of our suppliers and to help identify products that other utilities are using that provide for greater sustainability. We have implemented many recommendations as offered in the Alliance voluntary standards that have been developed.

Marty Gault, CPSM, CPPO, C.P.M., Program Manager, Sustainable Acquisition