Most Americans have never heard of the Department of Energy’s Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs), but these four organizations are a crucial part of the country’s electricity infrastructure – past, present and future.

Starting with the Bonneville Power Administration in 1937, Congress established the Power Marketing Administrations to distribute and sell electricity from a network of more than 130 federally built hydroelectric dams, including the Hoover Dam, the Columbia River dams, and others throughout the United States.  While the PMAs -- which also include the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the Southeastern Power Administration (SEPA), and the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA) -- don’t own or manage the dams themselves, they do market the power and in many cases maintain the transmission infrastructure to distribute the low-cost, carbon free electricity. 

In fact, BPA, WAPA, and SWPA collectively own and operate 33,700 miles of transmission lines, which are integrally linked with the transmission and distribution systems of utilities in 20 states.  While millions of consumers get electricity from the Power Marketing Administrations (usually indirectly, via their local utility), a much larger number of consumers benefit from – and have a stake in – the continued efficient, effective operation of the PMAs and the transmission infrastructure they are building and maintaining.

The PMAs therefore have a crucial role to play as America transitions to a clean energy economy – and a stronger, more reliable, more efficient electricity grid that will benefit all Americans.  To that end, Secretary Chu is sending a memo today to the Administrators of the four PMAs outlining a strategy to ensure that the PMAs can play a leadership role in their respective regions in modernizing the grid to meet 21st century needs. 

We are strongly committed to working with the PMAs to upgrade the electric grid in a way that improves existing services to consumers and that supports increasing and changing energy needs over the coming decades.  This is about strengthening American competitiveness, winning the race for the clean energy jobs of the future, using more renewable energy, and saving consumers money by saving energy.

Specifically, the strategy will include:

  • Upgrading and replacing aging electricity infrastructure and utilizing new tools and technology that would better utilize our existing infrastructure.  These efforts will not only save consumers money but will also make the grid more reliable for the families and businesses who depend on it each and every day. 
  • Leveraging all available resources and tools -- including private-public partnerships, increased collaboration with grid owners and operators, and loan financing for critical, job-creating transmission projects -- to build a stronger, more resilient electric grid for the long-term security and efficiency of America’s critical infrastructure.
  • Developing new rate structures that save consumers money by promoting energy efficiency and demand response programs that will reduce costs by better managing the electricity load at times when demand for electricity is highest.  These rate structures will also help ensure that new clean energy resources from wind and solar power are efficiently and effectively integrated into the grid.

In short, our effort in the coming weeks, months and years will build on a decades-long tradition of the Power Marketing Administrations providing crucial and effective service to the country.  As we move into a new era with new challenges and opportunities, they are poised to make yet another major contribution to America’s progress by leading the way to a modern, secure and reliable transmission system.

Read the full memo HERE.