Steve Wright -- Bonneville Power Administration administrator and CEO for more than a decade -- announced on Tuesday that he will retire at the end of January 2013.
Wright has led the agency since November 2000, first as the acting administrator before being selected as the permanent administrator in February 2002.
Wright is the second longest serving BPA administrator. He first joined the federal power marketing agency in an entry level position in 1981.
Bonneville markets power generated in the Federal Columbia River Power System as well as from other sources. It also funds fish and wildlife programs across the Columbia-Snake river basin as mitigation for impacts caused by the existence and operation hydro projects that make up the FCRPS.
"It has been a great honor to serve in an agency that has such a tremendous impact on the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest," Wright said. "It has been my goal since graduating from college to make a positive and meaningful difference in the world. In no place could I have had more of an opportunity to do so than at BPA."
Wright, 54, has been planning this decision based on his eligibility date for retirement and decided to make this announcement ahead of his retirement in order to allow for an orderly transition to a new agency leader. This will allow time for a thorough selection process and a brief overlap period before he departs the agency.
"I have tremendous affection for BPA and its enormous set of responsibilities," Wright said. "I am announcing my decision now in order to provide an opportunity for an appropriately deliberate selection and transition process given the magnitude of issues BPA is responsible for addressing."
"Steve Wright is 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," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "I thank him for his work as a civil servant during his time at the Bonneville Power Administration and congratulate him for his leadership achievements.”
Wright will continue to serve as the administrator until a new administrator is selected. He plans to stay on to support the transition to his successor until his retirement in January. The Department of Energy will have a competitive process conducted under the federal civil service rules to select a new BPA administrator. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman will be the selecting official.
"Steve Wright has provided strong and intelligent leadership in his decades of service at the Bonneville Power Administration, and it has been a pleasure working with him during my time at the Department of Energy," said Poneman. "I am grateful for his strategic vision, creative problem solving, professionalism and dedication. Wright retains my full confidence and support as he continues to serve as the administrator for BPA for his remaining tenure."
Tribes and other regional entities this week praised Wright for his handling of the agency during trials, such the power crisis during the earliest part of the millennium, and triumphs.
“Steve has been a skilled and steady leader for the Bonneville Power Administration during some turbulent times in our industry. His leadership on key issues such as long-term power contracts and the landmark plan for salmon will leave an impressive legacy,” said Scott Corwin, executive director of the Public Power Council, which represents preference utility customers of BPA. “PPC congratulates Steve on his well-earned retirement, and we look forward to working closely with the congressional delegation and the Administration in a process to select a new administrator.”
PPC represents Pacific Northwest consumer-owned utilities on issues related to the FCRPS.
“Steve’s consistent presence and knowledge of the Columbia River Basin and the challenges that the region faces has played a large role in the recent progress that we have made and provides a foundation for moving forward,” said Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
“The balancing act required to manage energy production with salmon and federal trust responsibilities is difficult, but Mr. Wright has performed admirably,” Lumley said. “Under his leadership, the tribes and BPA have built one of the largest salmon recovery programs in history. I am grateful for the work that he has done and am confident that the strong relationship he helped forge between the tribes and BPA will continue into the future. I wish him and his family all the best in the next stage of their lives.”
Portland-based CRITFC is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies of four Columbia River basin treaty tribes: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings of eastern Washington likewise praised Wright for a job well done.
“For 12 years, Steve has admirably guided the Bonneville Power Administration through very challenging times, collaborating with diverse interests to ensure the continued operation of clean, renewable hydropower, protection of near-record runs of salmon, and increased development of other renewable resources, such as wind,” Hastings aid. “I join other members of the Northwest congressional delegation in wishing him and his family well as he moves on to other endeavors.”