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Returning our workforce to facilities and restarting transmission capital projects
6/17/2020 12:00 AM
During these uncertain times, Bonneville remains committed to its role as an engine of the region’s economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. As a not for profit, we take pride in providing the highest value energy at the lowest possible cost. From water drop to energy watt, our electricity super highways bring the power of the river to your door.
Dear BPA customers,
Elliot Mainzer, BPA Administrator
I hope this note finds you and your organization well. It has been a whirlwind three months since the Bonneville Power Administration took the proactive step of closing its facilities to most of our workforce. We have conducted work virtually to the extent possible to help reduce the impacts of COVID-19 on our ability to deliver power and reliably operate the grid.
Those three months have been a practice in patience and learning new ways to interact with one another remotely to effectively meet our collective missions. I ask for your continued patience as we begin the slow transition of reopening our facilities and restarting transmission projects that have been on hold.
To keep our people safe, field districts and construction crews have, until now, been primarily on standby, only responding to emergency outages or other critical work. We placed roughly 70 capital transmission projects on hold. A select few, roughly 13 projects, proceeded or started as scheduled based on an analysis of each project’s importance for life safety and grid criticality.
Based on a comprehensive transition plan that outlines a gradual and safe approach for returning to normal operations, field districts have reopened and crews returned to their facilities June 1. This heralded the return to transmission line patrols, maintenance and compliance work. It has also enabled us to begin preparing for summer, a time of high activity and construction for BPA Transmission, including work to mitigate the possibility of and impacts of wildfire. Similarly, on June 2, other employees who could not perform their work from home returned to facilities across our service territory. This week, we reached a new milestone as our transmission field construction crews began restarting those 50+ projects that were put on hold.
Our transition plan includes extensive monitoring of COVID-19 data at a state, county and local level. It is also designed to protect potentially vulnerable workers and our mission essential employees. The majority of our workforce will remain in a remote work status for the foreseeable future. This is vital to the continued safety of our workers and our efforts to provide power and transmission service throughout the Northwest. Social distancing continues to be our primary and best defense against the spread of COVID-19.
Ramping up – not catching up
Work on almost two dozen of the suspended transmission capital projects began earlier this week and the remainder will start over the next month. This operation requires substantial cooperation across a number of business lines within BPA, including our supply chain, environmental staff and safety.
My message and the message of Transmission leadership to these crews is that we are not in a game of catch-up. We are methodically and safely restarting work. This means that we will continue proper social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment, such as masks. Ultimately, the job of any employee at BPA is service to the public. One way we can serve others is to protect them and ourselves by not enabling the further spread of COVID-19.
This emphasis on safety is critical to our ability to continue to address capital construction needs. Looking forward through the end of the year, we have some 219 construction starts. If we are going to achieve that heavy lift, we need our crews healthy.
This methodical approach will also result in a substantial effort to prioritize and sequence the work in a smooth fashion. You can anticipate communication in the coming weeks from your account executive to further explain this prioritization and the impacts on any capital projects associated with your organization.
BPA’s continued role in the Northwest
This is a time of great anxiety and uncertainty. The physical, emotional and financial impacts of COVID-19, coupled with the societal unrest brought on by systemic racism and societal inequalities are having a profound impact on our workforce, as I’m sure they are for yours. At BPA, we have taken this moment as an opportunity to come together through virtual town halls to share our experiences and listen to one another.
BPA is committed to a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion and a workplace where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We believe this to be vital to a healthy and productive workforce, critical to collaborative relationships with our customers, and a key driver of our success.
We have worked extremely hard to maintain business continuity during this time, and I’m proud of how our workforce has pulled together to continue work on our major agency initiatives and public processes. As circumstances continue to evolve, we will keep you posted on any changes in our operating status. If you have any questions, please reach out to your account executive.
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