Hand in hand with Oklahoma growth and development

Power for Progress…
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority

Hand in hand with Oklahoma growth and development … Visitors to Pensacola Dam look at a hand-painted map of the Grand River Dam Authority electric transmission system that has adorned the walls of the powerhouse for decades. Since that map’s creation, GRDA has added many assets — and many miles of electric lines — to keep up with the growth and development across Oklahoma and fulfill its mission as the state’s low-cost, reliable power supplier.

A 125-mile river, running along the scenic Ozark foothills in Northeast Oklahoma, is the foundation for one of the nation’s largest electric utilities.

That may be a simplistic way of saying it, but the truth is, the Grand River Dam Authority – which was first created to harness the waters of the Grand River – is today the nation’s 16th largest public power electric generator in the country. According to the 2012-2013 American Public Power Association (APPA) Directory and Statistical Report, GRDA had net electric generation of nearly 8 million megawatt-hours in 2010. (As way of explanation, net electric generation is the amount of electricity generated at a power plant, minus the amount of electricity used by the plant itself).

Of course, that generation was spread across several facilities. In a typical year, GRDA generates the large majority of its electricity at the Coal Fired Complex, near Chouteau, Oklahoma. Other power sources include the Redbud Gas Plant near Luther, Oklahoma (GRDA owns a 36 percent interest in the facility), the Salina Pumped Storage Project (southeast of Salina), Robert S. Kerr Dam (on Lake Hudson, north of Locust Grove) and finally, the Pensacola Dam (on Grand Lake, in Langley).

Such a portfolio of generation assets would seem far removed from the early days of GRDA, when many said the Pensacola Dam would produce more power than the utility could ever market. However, the Authority’s growth and development has gone hand-in-hand with the growth and development of the Oklahoma communities it has impacted for over 75 years. 

Yet today, the utility stands at a crossroads of sorts. The future operating environment for electricity providers remains unclear, as new mandates and regulations are still moving on the horizon. Navigating through this critical time to secure generation to meet future customer needs – 10, 20 even 30 years down the road – depends on decisions being made now by the GRDA board and management.

Such decisions must be based on solid information, backed up by all the necessary research and discussions. Today’s – and tomorrow’s – GRDA is committed to doing the kind of due diligence, long-range planning and open communication with customers that will lead to those good decisions. Meanwhile, through its involvement in groups like the APPA CEO Climate Change and Generation Policy Task Force (GRDA CEO Dan Sullivan is a member) and the Large Public Power Council (a nationwide organization of those large electric generators like GRDA), the Authority has an all-important “seat at the table” to discuss the issues affecting electric utilities nationwide.

That matters for Oklahoma. Because the value of GRDA – and its role as the state’s low-cost, reliable power supplier – will continue to increase as the state continues to growth and develop in the 21st century.

Not bad for an electric utility that began on the banks of scenic Oklahoma river.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Directly or indirectly, GRDA’s low-cost, reliable; electricity serves nearly 500,000 homes in Oklahoma and stretches into 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75-plus years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  — Justin Alberty
                                                                                                                                                                                      GRDA Corporate Communications Director

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