Citing five years of drought affecting water levels in its Salt Lake City Area Integrated Projects (SLCA/IP), the federal Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) earlier this month indicated in the Federal Register that it would be cutting back on hydro power supply and keeping capacity at current levels for its 20-year supply contracts over the next 20 years beginning with the new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1.

The prolonged drought conditions have required WAPA to buy what it described as “extraordinary quantities” of power to meet its firm commitments to customers, which include load-serving entities and large industrial users. The reduced SLCA/IP annual power supplies are in the range of 4,557.5 GWh (2205) to 4,948.8 GWh (2009-2024).

Impacted by the impending reduction are 116 wholesale customers and an additional 50-plus Native American tribes in the six-state Colorado Basin area that draw power from the 11-unit SLCA/IP hydro electric facilities (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and a small portion of Nevada).

The Salt Lake projects account for about 18% of WAPA’s capacity and energy supplies. SLCA/IP’s capacity is about 1,800 MW, compared with WAPA’s overall capacity of about 10,000 MW, a Colorado-based WAPA spokesperson said.

“The reason for lowering the amount of marketable energy is the significant reduction in forecasted electrical generation from the SLCA/IP during the 20-year contract period, WAPA said in the Federal Register posting. “Drought conditions in the Upper Colorado River Basin during the last five years have significantly lowered reservoir storage levels and reduced water releases through the SLCA/IP power plants. These dry conditions resulted in WAPA purchasing extraordinary quantities of energy to firm its contractual energy commitments.

“Because of lowered reservoir levels, the near-term forecasts indicate the most severe reductions, and lower generation amounts are also forecast for the entire 20-year contract period.”

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