Learn about this employee’s pathway to BPA. She buys, sells and schedules energy to optimize the use of the Federal Columbia River Power System.
"Every day brings new challenges to overcome and new opportunities for learning."Anna Wills, Customer account executive in Real-Time Trading and Scheduling
I’ll start by explaining the hours. Real-time traders and schedulers are on duty 24-hours a day. We work 12-hour shifts, including weekends and holidays. That’s because the power grid has to be in constant balance, with the amount of energy that’s produced exactly matching the power consumed from second to second. While BPA has planners and traders that focus on long-term transactions months in advance, real-time traders are focused on transactions for the hour ahead and within the hour, making fine-tuned adjustments to constantly balance energy and demand as conditions change. Our priority is to buy, sell and schedule energy to optimize water – which is our fuel – in the Federal Columbia River Power System, to meet the power needs of our utility customers. We work in hourly, 15- and 5-minute markets, so it’s very fast-paced. This means every deal is on a quick timeline, creating an exciting and fluid environment for scheduling.
How does your work support BPA’s mission and strategy?
Bonneville’s aim is to provide our customers reliable, carbon-free power in a cost-effective manner. As a real-time trader, my responsibility is to help balance generation and load. We sell power when the FCRPS has surplus resources and purchase power when we can’t meet our customers’ needs with what’s available in the federal system. Real-time traders must also be prepared to help BPA hydro schedulers meet hydrological goals such as making room in reservoirs for flood control or managing water flow levels to aid in protecting endangered fish. We do this through our sales and purchases. We We try to think 10 steps ahead to make sure we use our hydropower resources effectively. We do this by listening to the hydro schedulers guidance throughout the shift.
How does your work help BPA keep rates low, stick to budget, reduce debt or generate revenue? Do you have an example?
For real-time traders, the core mission is to optimize the economics of the FCRPS. We contribute to BPA’s secondary revenues by making the most of the water that’s available, selling surplus energy to customers both in and outside of our region and minimizing the need to purchase power. These secondary revenues help BPA keep rates low.
How does your work help the agency prepare for, respond to or build resilience to climate change?
Our power is 95% carbon-free on average, with hydropower making up the majority of it. Being able to deploy hydropower when it’s needed is a great complement to intermittent renewable resources like solar and wind. Bonneville’s hydropower product has greatly contributed to maintaining a clean power grid in the Northwest and even beyond our region. Through my work as a real-time trader, I am learning a lot about the complexity of integrating renewable energy into the power grid. I think this will be useful in my career as the nation’s power grid becomes less and less carbon dependent.
Anna came to us as a recent college graduate through our Pathways program. We decided to interview her because her degrees in German and French – which might seem unrelated to energy trading – require hard work and discipline. And the fact she applied told us she was willing to do something outside of her field of study.
Her interview convinced us she would be a great addition to our group. We didn’t limit ourselves by putting too much emphasis on business fields of study. Positions in Real Time Trading and Scheduling do not require a degree, but qualifying on a vacancy announcement for mid-level General Schedule positions (at the GS-11 or 12 level) usually requires some utility experience, and the candidate pool with utility experience is limited. In addition, many who have never worked 12-hour shifts might not think it’s right for them, so it is quite difficult to get many applicants.
The Pathways Recent College Graduate route enables us to hire and train candidates from any field of study, and who have no industry experience, at the GS-7 or 9 level, provided they are adventurous enough to give 12-hour rotating shifts a try and are committed to learning and applying themselves.
The Recent College Graduate route to Real Time Trading and Scheduling is a unique opportunity to get into BPA and learn the utility business from the ground up. For the right candidates, if they like the shift schedule and perform well, they can fairly rapidly advance from GS-7 to GS-13 in about 4 years. For those who perform well and don’t want to work a shift schedule after a few years, there are many areas of BPA they can move to that value the exposure to utility fundamentals. It can be a great opportunity to start a long and rewarding career at BPA. Those with physical science or engineering/math backgrounds, while not required, could learn real-time operations and then move into hydro duty scheduling or transmission operations.
I think hiring managers are learning to have more of an open mind on fields of study when we are evaluating recent college grads for hard-to-fill positions. The most important qualities are that the candidates are willing to put in the work required, seek to understand, like to learn new things, foster positive relationships at work and can operate with attention to detail. It is a bonus for them and us if they want to be a part of an organization that serves the people of the Northwest with reliable, clean, cost-effective energy, while advancing environmental and climate goals.
- Phil Platter, Manager, Real Time Trading and Scheduling
Learn more about the Pathways Student Internship and Pathways Recent College Graduate Programs on the BPA Careers page.
A new or technical aspect of my job that I enjoy is:
Every day brings new challenges to overcome and new opportunities for learning. When we purchase energy, we have to first get it to our system via transmission lines. Each line follows a specific path to get from point A to point B. I enjoy searching for available transmission avenues required to reach a specific point of delivery. Our job requires critical thought to solve various problems that may arise during any given shift. We have to constantly think ahead about optimizing our power and learn about each of the systems that helps serve our customers’ power needs with clean, reliable energy.
The coolest or most surprising thing about my job is:
Everyone I work with provides opportunities for me to grow and learn. Our team comes from diverse backgrounds, and we learn and grow together through our experiences.
I like working at BPA because:
I love playing a role in the clean energy market. I feel that I help make the world a more sustainable place.
What advice do you have for students nearing graduation about entering the federal workforce or working at Bonneville specifically?
Two things: First, if you see a position that you are interested in that is advertised as open to recent college graduates, do not shy away from applying even if you don’t think you have the specific experience that might be needed. I believe that with hard work and a drive to learn, any new material can become accessible, no matter the field. I was able to learn what I needed from on-the-job training and through the mentorship of my colleagues. They have done an excellent job of explaining complex material about the transmission and power systems.
And second, ask to work with a variety of people and on different projects, because it will help you gain more diverse work experience and on-the-job training, which will probably increase your opportunities.
Tell us about your notable accomplishments, past jobs, awards, published work, etc.
In addition to completing my degrees in French and German and developing my art to the point of it being publicly displayed – some of my proudest accomplishments – I have always strived to be a lifelong learner. The thing I find most pride in today is the way my work at BPA contributes to a sustainable future powered by clean energy.
I am inspired by (people or places):
I am inspired by my dad. Growing up, my father always had a strong work ethic. Like me, he studied multiple languages. This inspired me from a young age to develop a work ethic that helped me quickly learn different languages. The ability I learned from him to absorb new skills and information helps me in any work position. He taught me how to adapt and how to approach any new situation as a challenge. He taught me to view all sides of a situation, to stay positive and to remember everyone has different experiences that we can learn from.
New transmission path supports Portland's growing energy demands, enables new transmission contracts.
Recently formed, the Western Transmission Expansion Coalition will focus on developing West-wide transmission solutions that address rapidly changing energy demands and future grid requirements.
In the fall of 2023, Transmission’s Portfolio Delivery Team completed a project to implement a bypass at the Buckley Substation to keep existing transmission lines operational.