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BPA Streamlines IT Processes to Improve Its Grid Decision Making

image credit: Credit: BPA

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) said it rolled out a new way of producing IT solutions that will reduce complexities and enable quicker, more strategic decision-making.

Known as Mission Critical Information Technology Architecture, the process is being deployed across BPA’s Transmission and Power Services group to improve how the federal power agency does business.

BPA is a nonprofit federal power marketing administration based in the Pacific Northwest. It markets wholesale electrical power from 31 federal hydroelectric projects in the Northwest, one nonfederal nuclear plant and several small nonfederal power plants.

At its core, the architecture is designed to look across BPA in order to fit new business functionality into the best technical solution that is based on the architectural principles rather than on organizational boundaries or existing system boundaries.

BPA said that over the years, IT specialists and engineers have modified or added to existing applications in order to keep up with energy market and utility advancements. This resulted in a “complicated web of systems” with “highly-customized features” that is difficult to support.

BPA said its recently completed MCIT Architecture project will ensure it “no longer jumps to solutions for a quick fix only to pay the price with too much complexity later.” Long-term planning now incorporates yearly iterations to make sure technological solutions and projects remain in line with the agency’s big-picture vision. As the MCIT architecture capability matures, iterative planning and ongoing collaboration will help make sure the agency stays on track.

MCIT Architecture is one of several grid modernization projects that support the implementation of BPA’s strategic goals to modernize federal power and transmission system operations and supporting technology, and to provide competitive power and transmission products and services.

The grid modernization portfolio includes 35 projects designed to increase automation, improve accuracy and enhance visibility into how the federal power and transmission systems are functioning in real time, to ultimately enhance grid optimization and reliability. BPA said these projects will enable it to leverage new technologies to improve workplace efficiencies and keep pace with the evolving Western electricity market.

BPA said that grid modernization enables its participation in new market opportunities, like the Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) operated by the California Independent System Operator. BPA is moving toward joining the EIM in March 2022. Projects that will enable BPA’s participation in the EIM are underway, including EIM Bid and Base Scheduling, EIM Real-Time Operations, EIM Settlements Implementation, EIM Training Program and EIM Testing Program. Other grid modernization projects also have elements that are critical to participation in the EIM.

When BPA launched its Grid Modernization Key Strategic Initiative, it found that the existing structure was too complicated and rigid to handle the new grid modernization technology changes. As a result, power and transmission IT groups worked to develop a set of IT projects to provide a foundational capability to support all grid modernization projects.

MCIT Architecture uses an industry standard modeling language to translate business needs into processes, then into data elements, and finally into systems and integrations. BPA said it is the IT equivalent of a city plan that takes into account the entire community instead of one building.

In practice, IT work is prioritized according to business value. The underlying architecture helps outline those business drivers and ensures that the priorities are carried through all the way down to the details of implementing the solution.

BPA said that to use the city planning analogy, the core principle might be to maximize the number of trees and the solution might be to plant oak trees along main streets.

BPA said its new approach is already proving beneficial in ensuring that the agency is ready to join the EIM.

Nicki Habluetzel, an operations analyst in the Business Transformation Office and MCIT project team member, said the  project identified business activities needed to join the EIM and leveraged that to negotiate EIM projects.

The EIM analysis each business process and the flow of data, bid to bill, within the context of EIM participation. This flow includes a cross-agency look incorporating processes across Power, Transmission and Customer Support Services.

David Wagman's picture

Thank David for the Post!

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Matt Acton's picture
Matt Acton on Sep 15, 2020 7:46 am GMT

I've seen firsthand the progress that BPA is making in the governance of their MCIT systems. I will watch with interest how the improved maturity can be scaled in time to operational telecommunications, protection and control e.g. IEC 61850 and cyber security.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 15, 2020 10:51 am GMT

Do you think BPA is going at the right pace, or should they have started earlier / gone faster in this endeavor? 

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