Recognizing the difficult financial situation of the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal power marketing agency that pays for the work of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the Council identified cuts of $206,000 in its budget for Fiscal Year 2019 and $428,000 in 2020. The Council is seeking public comments on the draft budgets through June 29. The budget document is located here. The Council is funded by Bonneville according to a formula in federal law.
The current realities of the West Coast electricity system – inexpensive natural gas, an abundance of renewable power, low prices – will challenge the Bonneville Power Administration in the future, perhaps as never before, the agency’s administrator, Elliott Mainzer, told the Council in March. The proliferation of surplus renewable energy, particularly solar power from California, has pushed West Coast wholesale market prices down, often to below the cost of power from Bonneville and many other power wholesalers in the Northwest.
In response, Bonneville is looking for efficiencies in its budget, and the Council is offering to help by cutting its own budget.
“The Bonneville budget over the next 10 years is somewhat precarious,” said Tom Karier, Eastern Washington Council member, at the Council’s May meeting in Boise. “We’ve heard there could be cuts of up to 10 percent in the fish and wildlife budget. So we should think about how we might meet those cuts. If our budget was cut by 5 percent, for example, how would we deal with that?”
Council Chair Jim Yost of Idaho said Council members should examine their own state office budgets “and determine whether we can do more or do better,” adding “it’s something we need to look at.” Washington’s Council members did that recently, Karier said, and identified cuts that will be deducted from the Council’s proposed budget.
The Council’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 revised budget is $11,708,000 and the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget is $11,725,000. These budgets are both below the maximum set for the Council in the Northwest Power Act, the federal law that governs the Council. In past years the Council and Bonneville staff have entered into multi-year budget agreements in order to better plan and stabilize funding levels needed to perform the Council’s work. In January 2017, the Council entered into a three-year budget agreement with Bonneville for fiscal years 2017-2019.
For the last 20 years the Council has held its budget growth to the rate of inflation or less. In addition, through ongoing efforts the Council has consistently underspent its budget and returned the unspent amount to Bonneville. The Council’s 2019 revised budget of $11,708,000 is $206,000 lower than the Fiscal Year 2019 budget adopted last year. The Council made a significant effort to reduce costs wherever possible in light of Bonneville’s current financial condition while maintaining efficient Council operations, administrative director Sharon Ossmann said. The Draft Fiscal Year 2020 budget and Fiscal Year 2019 revisions document is posted on the Council’s website here, with instructions on how to comment.