Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation - 2011 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Colville Reservation, Confederated Tribes of the
Location: Coulee Dam, WA
Project Title: Colville Tribal Utility Development Project
Type of Application: First Steps (Planning)
DOE Grant Number: DE-EE0005047
Project Amounts:
DOE: $207,995
Awardee: $85,050
Total: $293,045
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2011
End: December 2012


The focus of this project is to support research and activities necessary to determine the feasibility of implementing a tribal electric utility program to unify electric service on the reservation under a single tribally controlled organization and establish opportunities for sustainable and affordable electric service for tribal members utilizing a variety of Colville resources.  Examples of these opportunities include becoming a Tier One Preference Power customer of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), and utilizing other hydropower resources from the Grand Coulee and Wells Dam settlements, and unifying power rates and service to tribal customers now served by four separate utility companies.

Project Description


The Colville Confederated Tribes are a federally recognized community of 12 bands of Native Americans, with a total tribal enrollment of approximately 9,700 people, approximately 5,000 of whom live within the reservation boundary. Tribal lands cover 1.4 million acres in northeast Washington. The reservation encompasses most of Okanogan and Ferry Counties. The major economic engines for the tribe include forest products and gaming industries. However, recent economic conditions, and the collapse of the housing market in particular, have caused the Colville forest industry to shut down. The Colville Casino has also been severely affected by the economic downturn but remains open.

There are six utilities serving tribal customers on the reservation. BPA is a federal agency charged with responsibility of distributing energy from federal dams on the Columbia River system in the northwestern United States. BPA permits the formation of new public utility enterprises, including Native American-owned businesses. BPA is currently establishing the long-term rules for new utility enterprises. This rule formation process will determine the size and number of new utilities that can be formed, eligibility to purchase power at different rate tiers, and timetables for their establishment. The Colville Confederated tribes would like to take advantage of this opportunity to acquire an allocation of Tier-I preference power and form a tribal utility.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Colville Tribes) have been actively engaged in developing and implementing a strategy to assess and develop energy resources and form organizations to manage those resources on the Colville Reservation.  In 2005, the Colville Tribes created an Energy Program to oversee the energy-related activities and opportunities available to the Colville Tribes. The Energy Program was charged with the task of developing a Strategic Energy Plan. The first draft of the Strategic Energy Plan was completed in April 2008 and the final draft was adopted by the Colville Business Council in March 2009.  The Colville Tribes Strategic Energy Plan (CSEP or Plan) calls for the formation of two energy organizations to manage and develop energy programs and projects on the Colville Reservation. The plan calls for the formation of a tribal energy enterprise that would be a for-profit corporation intended to manage the tribe's energy interests as businesses. The other entity would be a not-for-profit tribal utility (CTU) that would perform common utility functions like delivering energy services such as electricity, heating gas, and telecommunications to all consumers on the reservation. The tribal utility would also manage the tribe's energy resources and participate in development of new energy resources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower.

Project Objectives

  1. Complete the Load and Resources Study—Determine the future load requirements for existing and future customers.  The load forecast will be used to determine the forecast of power requirements to determine future resource needs.

  2. Complete the System Valuation Study—Visually inspect all electric facilities to determine the condition of the equipment, estimate costs to make repairs, if needed, and determine the value of the facilities.

  3. Complete Regulatory Assessment—Consultant to: conduct a review of the relevant existing generation, transmission and distribution resources on the reservation; identify the relevant utility entities and industry issues to determine priority actions needed to meet tribal utility goals; review the BPA Standards for Service and other BPA requirements for achieving preference customer status for the type of service contemplated; and draft a report detailing the results of this effort and share the information with the tribe's leadership.

  4. Complete Draft CTU Ordinance—After a regulatory assessment has been completed, a consultant will conduct a review of the BPA, relevant tribal laws and codes, and current service provider rules and tariffs to determine the appropriate draft tribal laws affecting the proposed BPA service and other utility functions. Utility, energy, and business laws will be examined. The contractor will then develop a proposed CTU Ordinance for tribal leadership consideration and approval before working through tribal processes to obtain final approval of the CTU Ordinance and assist with the implementation of the CTU Ordinance.

  5. Complete Draft CTU Business Plan—Contractor will examine and provide an analysis of current deal structures and agreements that significantly affect potential CTU business. Once complete, contractor will draft a CTU business plan with all standard business plan contents.  A presentation will be given to the Colville Tribes leadership regarding the draft CTU Business Plan.

  6. Initiate BPA Tier-1 Application—Initiate discussions with BPA and other affected Service Providers. During formation of a tribal utility, the Colville Tribes would meet with both BPA Power Business Line and the Transmission Business Line to initiate discussions regarding power supply and related transmission.

  7. Complete Final CTU Feasibility Report—Project participants will compile the results from the system assessment, load forecast, revenue forecast, power purchase forecast, OM&C forecast, and A&G forecast into a pro-forma to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of forming a TUA. Contractor will contribute an analysis of the legal and regulatory framework necessary to implement a tribal utility. All participants will contribute to the development of a legal, financial, and technical implementation strategy. The Final Feasibility Report will be presented to the working group for review prior to being submitted to the Colville Business Council.

Project Location

The Colville Indian Reservation land base covers 1.4 million acres or 2,100 square acres located in North Central Washington, primarily in Okanogan and Ferry counties. Colville Reservation lands are diverse, with natural resources including standing timber, streams, rivers, lakes, minerals, varied terrain, native plants, and wildlife.

Project Status

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2010 funding opportunity announcement "First Steps Toward Developing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency on Tribal Lands" (DE-FOA-0000422) and started in September 2011.

The November 2011, November 2012, March 2014, and May 2015 project status reports provide more information.

For current project status or additional information, please contact the project contact.

Project Contact

Ernest Clark
Program Director—Tribal Energy Program
PO Box 150, Nespelem, WA 99155