(Update: Adding video, comments by Warm Springs Power and Water and PGE)
MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and Portland General Electric hosted Tribal, utility, national and state energy leaders at the Pelton Round Butte Hydropower Project last Friday to mark the launch of their partnership to complete a major transmission upgrade in Oregon.
"It just felt so right, in terms of where the partnership was between us and PGE and the opportunity that the Department of Energy was putting forward. It just seemed perfectly matched." Cathy Ehli, general manager of Warm Springs Power and Water, who helped design the partnership, said Thursday.
A $250 million grant from the Department of Energy will expand the Bethel Round Butte Transmission Line, helping the state reach its renewable energy goal and beginning solar energy projects in Warm Springs.
PGE Senior Infrastructure Program Director Bill Messner said, "I just think this is a project, one of those projects that's it's going to keep on giving. I think it's going to keep giving a whole bunch of other avenues for the the tribes of Warm Springs to just continue to leverage more success for their members."
The hydropower transmission line connects the Willamette Valley and the Cascades, benefitting PGE's 900,000 customers.
Messner said, "The way I think of this, this effort is that think of a water pipeline. So you just, you only get so much water through the pipeline. So what we're doing with this effort, in essence is, we're doubling the size of that pipeline, and so it is allowing us to get more electrons through."
The expansion went through numerous reviews by tribal members to ensure protection of sacred lands and promote more jobs for community members.
Ehli said the new job opportunities aim to create stability and prosperity for the tribes' future generations.
"Some educational programs from kindergarten on up, you know, just so that we can talk about renewable energy," she said. "The membership and the members can learn about it, decide whether it's a career path, and then also build in some apprenticeship programs."
The funding is part of President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure deal, passed in 2021, which invests $3.5 billion into the country's electric grid.
Messner said, "This investment in our reliability, for clean energy, and it's part of our infrastructure. So it is a big, big project in that sense as well, not only from a, hey we're going to tap into green resources, but reliability for the grid and keeping our economy and our state healthy."
There are still some hurdles to clear, and the project is expected to take six to eight years to complete, once started.
Here's information provided earlier by PGE about last week's launch gathering and the project:
In October, CTWS was selected to receive a $250 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help upgrade the 230 kV Bethel-Round Butte transmission line – a crucial artery in the region’s transmission system.
This infrastructure enhancement will unlock renewable energy potential on the Warm Springs Reservation and bring revenue to historically underserved communities, while connecting resources east of the Cascades to customers in the Willamette Valley.
Funding for the upgrade was awarded through the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) program – an unprecedented $10.5 billion investment from the federal government in initiatives that enhance grid flexibility and resilience in the face of growing threats from climate change.
“Lack of transmission access has been a chronic obstacle in achieving our renewable goals. That brings us to today, and the significant opportunity promoted by the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Jonathan Smith, CTWS Tribal Chairman. “We believe the GRIP grant was tailor-made for our unique partnership, our mutual goals in the pursuit of renewable energy, and the desire to create economic benefits for Tribal communities.”
Festivities in Madras Friday morning began with a blessing from the Warm Springs Tribal Council, followed by remarks in support of this endeavor, offered by leaders from Warm Springs Power & Water Enterprises, PGE and the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Thank you to the leaders of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, the U.S. Department of Energy, and all the state, labor, and community partners who worked together in close partnership to make today possible. Expanding transmission capacity is essential to keeping power reliable and affordable as we transition to a clean energy future,” said Maria Pope, PGE President & CEO. “PGE is honored to deepen our decades-long partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, enabling tremendous opportunities for renewable clean energy development.”
Increasing the line’s capacity will help meet growing electrical demand from customers in PGE’s service area, which contains about half of Oregon’s population and two thirds of the state’s commercial and industrial activity.
“The DOE selected this project because it commits to clean energy development with the integration of indigenous knowledge and traditional ecological wisdom into the project design,” said Kristen Frick, Project Manager for the Grid Innovation Program at U.S. DOE. “It includes tribal leadership in stakeholder decision-making discussions, and creates good paying, local union jobs as well as offering workforce development and mentorship programs.”
Friday’s celebration was the first milestone in a lengthy process that will include environmental and scoping studies, design, permitting and construction. Throughout the upgrade, CTWS and PGE will work closely with partners, landowners, and other jurisdictions to make this project a reality.
Watch video from the event.
About the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs:
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, is based in Central Oregon with a membership of over 5,000 Tribal Members from the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute tribes. Learn more at warmsprings-nsn.gov www.warmsprings-nsn.gov.
About Portland General Electric Company:
Portland General Electric (NYSE: POR) is a fully integrated energy company that that generates, transmits and distributes electricity to over 900,000 customers in 51 cities across the state of Oregon. For more than 130 years, Portland General Electric (PGE) has powered the advancement of society, delivering safe, affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy. To deliver on its strategy and meet state targets, PGE and its approximately 3,000 employees are committed to partnering with stakeholders to achieve at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from power served to customers by 2030 and 100% reduction by 2040. PGE customers set the standard for prioritizing clean energy with the No. 1 voluntary renewable energy program in the country. Additionally, for the fifth year in a row, PGE was recognized by the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index which highlights companies committed to creating a more equal and inclusive workplace. As a reflection of the company's commitment to the community it serves, in 2022, PGE employees, retirees and the PGE Foundation donated nearly $5.5 million and volunteered more than 18,000 hours with more than 400 nonprofits across Oregon. For more information visit www.PortlandGeneral.com/news.