BPA chief announces retirement

Steve Wright, the administrator and CEO of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), said June 19 that he will retire at the end of January 2013.

Wright joined the agency in an entry-level position in 1981 and has led it since November 2000. He first led the agency as acting administrator before being selected as the permanent administrator in February 2002.

Wright is the second longest-serving BPA administrator behind Paul J. Raver, who served from 1939 to 1954. Wright succeeded Judi Johansen, who served as administrator from 1997 to 2000.

“It has been my goal since graduating from college to make a positive and meaningful difference in the world,” Wright said in a BPA statement. “In no place could I have had more of an opportunity to do so than at BPA.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu referred to Wright as “the rare chief executive who worked his way up from an entry level job to the highest ranking professional at the Bonneville Power Administration and this speaks to his outstanding skill set and abilities,” Among his accomplishments, Wright forged an agreement with several Columbia Basin tribes, three states and other federal agencies to provide long-term funding certainty for key fish restoration projects. According to BPA’s web site, it is a historic agreement that changed a paradigm from decades of litigation to an era of collaboration.

During Wright’s tenure, BPA has moved forward on several transmission projects that will bring more renewable resources to the region while simultaneously providing greater reliability. Wind on BPA’s system has grown from 25 MW in 1998 to more than 2,800 MW in 2010. Under Wright’s direction, BPA is working with the region to integrate as much as 6,000 megawatts of wind energy into the regional grid by 2013, according to the BPA’s web site.

Wright said he decided to announce his retirement at this time to allow for a thorough selection process and an orderly transition to a new agency leader. Wright will continue to serve as the administrator until a new administrator is selected, and will stay on to support the transition to his successor until the end of January.

The U.S. Department of Energy will have a competitive process conducted under the federal civil service rules to select a new BPA administrator.