Feedback

We want to hear from you! Please feel free to add comments below and we’ll do our best to respond. Popular topics will be included on our FAQ page. Thanks for your interest in public power!

22 comments on “Feedback”

  1. kent Reply

    There is very little info on your website.

    What is your vision, goals, actions? How do you see this playing out. What are the milestones? What are the plusses and minuses?

    I need to know you all are way ahead on all this.

    • admin Reply

      Hi Kent,
      Thanks so much for your interest/questions. In response to your question about our vision, goals, actions, I’ll start with an overview then we may just have to meet for coffee, OR, you could come to one of our meetings (info below) to get specific details. (That said, one of our goals is to put more information on the website – it’s just a matter of time/volunteer availability.)

      Now that we’ve had our first public meeting, we’re going to decide in our June work group meeting how best to continue to get the word out (social media, local papers, and more public meetings). Our next major goal is to get public power on the ballot early next year. Why? Electric utilities need a vote, unlike water and sewer utilities, which the city can just decide to create and run. The citizens of BI need to give the city (or any entity) the right to run an electric utility. And, I know the city has a bad reputation so we need to talk through options (because Island Power isn’t mandating, just suggesting a path) such as a co-op, board, etc. If the city proves to be too big an obstacle to overcome then we may have to backup and come up with plan B.

      Basic Timeline:
      If we get enough signatures to show that a significant number of BIers are interested in public power, it gets on the ballot then BI votes for it the next steps, which will take 3-5yrs approx. involve getting feasibility studies, cost studies, buying infrastructure from PSE, setting up a billing system and customer service and as a community deciding what additional services we’d like to support/manage (e.g., green power, EnergyStar rebates, etc. – most of these are state or national programs). Finally transitioning running the electric utility from PSE to BI. We are thinking the city is the straightest path but we want to keep the conversation going. We would get our power, at least initially, from Bonneville Power Administration.

      Please consider coming to our meetings and signing up for our mailing list.

      Our Next Work Group Meeting
      Tuesday, June 9th 7-9pm
      Marge Williams Center

      We’re taking a little meeting breather after a steady diet of weekly meetings. See you in June!

      Petitions:
      In the meantime, if you’d like to help us with signature gathering and don’t have a petition already, please email jane@lowcarbongirl.com.

      Comp Plan Meeting Participation Critical:
      Since our meeting on Saturday, we’ve heard from the council that is critical to bring our idea of public power to the comp plan meetings. And, since you’re not going to our meetings right now, please consider participating in the Comp Plan Element Workshops. They are a discussion of what will be changed in the comp plan before writing begins. June is environment and economic elements – perfect for Island Power participation. We encourage you to sign up for notifications. Half way down the list you’ll see: Navigate Bainbridge – Comprehensive Plan Update.

    • Paul C. Reply

      I have a question about one of the first FAQ:

      BPA’s website (link) reports that its 2015 mix was: 84.5% hydro, 0% coal, 0.1% natural gas, 4.5% non-specified market purchases, 9.9% non-fossil-fuel nuclear, 1.0% wind, biomass and waste.

      84.5 Hyrdo + 9.9% non-fossil fuel nuclear, + 1 wind, biomass, and waste = 95.4%

      Where does the 97% carbon free claim come from? Thanks.

      • admin Reply

        The 97% includes one half of the 4.5% “unspecified market purchases” which the BPA folks say is about 50% hydro.

  2. Deb Rudnick Reply

    Wonderful meeting, thank you Island Power!! I had a question about green power. Currently I buy PSE’s green power because I feel strongly about supporting the shift to renewables. If BPA becomes our primary supplier, is there going to be any mechanism by which we can support additional purchase of renewable energy as an island? I know the cooperative solar project idea is one- any others ways by which we can push for more renewables in our portfolio if we are our own entity?

    • admin Reply

      Hi Deb,
      Thanks for your question.

      Currently, PSE uses the funds collected from the Green Power Program to purchase renewable energy on Green Power Program customer’s behalf, educate our customers about the program, and administer the program. PSE is required to report annually on our Green Power Program’s progress to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Committee (WUTC) and Washington State Department of Community Trade and Economic Development, who in turn present their findings from throughout the state to the Washington State Legislature.
      http://pse.com/savingsandenergycenter/GreenPower/Pages/Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx

      A new electric utility could create ways to support renewables and we could work as a community to decide what best reflects our values. Currently, I think about 12% of the island is signed up for Green Power, plus the city at 100%.

  3. Thomas Dildine Reply

    How would you purchase BPA power? The only BPA transmission line in Kitsap County serves Naval Base Kitsap and stops at Bangor. Do you propose to build a new line all the way to Bangor? Is there even capacity on that line? The transmission lines serving B.I. are PSE owned and recently upgraded at Agate Passage. Purchasing their transmission system will be very expensive. The idea that you would use local linemen to service the line and respond to outages is far fetched. Few linemen could afford to live locally.

    • admin Reply

      Hi Thomas,

      Thanks so much for your question. I’m sure others are wondering as well. We asked Marcus Perry, Bonneville Power Administration Account Representative to check our response to ensure it was accurate with regard to BPA’s role.

      The source of our power should not change how electricity gets to Bainbridge Island and fills our grid. In most circumstances the best solution to get power is to gain access to the facilities that are already delivering us power. We expect the City of Bainbridge Island to negotiate with PSE to do just that at a price that is fair and is closely tied to the cost of those facilities that we already bundled into our PSE rates anyway. If PSE is unwilling to negotiate a sale at a reasonable price the city would have to consider pursuing an alternative such as condemning the facilities where the price would be the subject of formal legal proceedings. Building new facilities is often a costly endeavor and would only happen if it was clear that the costs were lower than other alternatives. The most sustainable option is to use an existing system versus building something new.

    • steve Reply

      Hi Tom
      You raise a good question. How would the new Island Power utility get the low cost BPA power it has a right to purchase from the BPA substation at Bangor to the island?
      The first thing to understand is that by law Island Power as a non profit utility has a right to buy BPA’s low cost power, BPA also has an obligation to make arrangment to deliver the power to its customers. The current lines work just fine for bringing power to the island, and I hope their construction made good business sense for PSE as a way to get power to the island, though the way the company makes its 8% “rate of return” on investments can distort the way it builds infrastructure. ( a nice thing about public power is it builds only to meet customer needs, not with a focus on profits.)
      Utilities by federal and state law have to cooperate in using each others transmission, and “wheeling charges” are set by existing contracts and agreements.
      Because BPA owns 75+% of the regions high voltage transmission PSE and other utilities are dependent on it. PSE for example get 25% of its power from the Colstrip plant in Montana but it is delivered over BPA lines to its service area, including Bainbridge. If PSE didn’t cooperate in the delivery of power to a BPA customer they would face complications given their dependency on BPA for transmission. They would be appropriately entitled to “wheeling” charges, and be compensated for use of this part of their system.
      Tom you obviously are knowledgeable in the utility area. I would be happy to get together with you some time for a cup of coffee to talk over these things. Steve

  4. Joe Deets Reply

    Hey Steve,

    I looked at the FAQ and read the information provided regarding solar power. More disclosure is needed here, for as you know (we had talked about this) the incentives for solar will be sharply curtailed should Bainbridge go the PUD route (smaller utility, less funds available). There are of course other issues to consider when deciding whether or not to form a PUD, but it is extremely important to provide full disclosure to the public on material issues. The growth in solar is one of Bainbridge’s success stories, and the curtailment of the incentives will do financial harm to existing solar system owners and will likely have an impact on the continuation of that success. My ultimate point is that disclosing this material fact on your website and in your presentations is the right thing to do.

    • admin Reply

      Hi Joe,
      Thanks for asking the question. Steve’s traveling for a couple weeks, he’ll have a chance to respond when he gets back. Have a low-carbon day! Jane

    • admin Reply

      Are solar customers better off with PSE or our own local electric utility?

      Due to the success of solar in our region, and the commitment to this clean source of power by folks like you, we are up against the cap on available tax credit money. Though PSE and other utilities send out the solar incentive the checks the funds for solar production incentives come state taxes which are capped, as PSE’s letter explaining its reduction in these incentives below explains.

      Because customers of some smaller public power utilities have a smaller tax credit amount, and have on a per capita basis done more solar than other regions, they are coming up against this cap even sooner. This raises the question of:

      Will the Bainbridge public power electric system disadvantage solar customers if it comes into existence, and potentially face this cap sooner, and at a level which cuts solar folks state subsidies even more than the cuts PSE is forced to implement? Island Powers answer is that that scenario is that such reductions are very unlikely, for the following reasons:

      1. The solar incentive law expires in 2020 so the current subsides end then. “Island Power” may take that long to get into business (Jefferson PUD took 5 years from the time it was voted into power in 2008 until it started operations in 2013) and Island Power will be working in the mean time to get this program extended and will to insure a new law does not have this limitation for consumer owned utility customers, or PSE’s customers.

      2. Island Power supporters primary motivation is to get to clean renewable power for the island. Being locally controlled the non-profit utility will do even more to promote solar than PSE, who’s only solar program for customers is basically the pass through of the state mandated solar production incentive program.

      3. Island Power has communicated to city officials that if a customer owned electric utility is created the law should have a provision that “solar and renewable incentive customers of PSE will continue to receive at a minimum the incentives they would have received through PSE.”

      Solar customers are very environmentally conscious and have made a commitment to clean energy, and independence from fossil fuel generation. This is what Island Power is all about. With our own non-profit utility we can make local decisions to do even more with local renewables. We can for example make a commitment to meet all load growth, as Seattle and other public power communities have, with local renewables and energy efficiency.

      Having our own utility with 100% fossil fuel free power will be good for solar and good for the planet.

      More questions? E mail Steve Johnson at stevej7775@gmail.com

  5. John deChadenedes Reply

    I think an island public utility is a great idea and hope you all will hold more meetings about this. One question: Have you considered moving power lines underground as part of the transition? Yes, I know it’s expensive but what, exactly, does that mean, in terms of dollars per month per ratepayer?

    • admin Reply

      Hi John, Thanks for your comment and support for our local power initiative. We will be having more meetings to get the word out and to talk with people. If you haven’t done so already, please sign up for our newsletter so you’ll be on our mailing list for future events.

      As far as undergrounding goes, the nice thing about owning the poles, cables and infrastructure is that we can decide as a community to underground our cables, how to do it (where to start) and how to pay it back. Orcas Island is a nice example. They have been working to underground their lines and paying off the cost over a 30 yr period, I believe, so the cost wasn’t prohibitive upfront. They have 1,339 miles of power lines (95% underground) including 43 miles of overhead transmission lines (2014). They are a pretty good role model for us. Here’s a bit of info:

      Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is a member-owned, non-profit cooperative electric utility providing services to San Juan County since 1937. OPALCO’s mostly hydro-electric power is generated by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and delivered to the islands by way of submarine cables.

      OPALCO distributes electricity to 20 islands in the archipelago and employs approximately 60 people in the county. The Cooperative is governed by its member-owners who elect a seven-member Board of Directors. Elections are held each year at the Annual Meeting.

      You can read more here: http://www.opalco.com/about/

  6. Kim Reply

    The Jefferson County PUD website FAQ addresses Initiative 937, passed by Washington voters in 2006, which requires all power utilities with more than 25,000 customers to supply at least 15 percent of their service through renewable sources of power by 2020. Bainbridge Island’s 2014 population is 24,000 people and would exceed 25,000 customers by the time public power was actually provided if Bainbridge establishes a public power system. Hydropower from BPA is not considered “renewable” under I-937, nor is nuclear power, and it looks like BPA currently only provides about 1% of its electricity from renewable sources (wind and solar). How would a Bainbridge power company meet the requirements of I-937?

    • admin Reply

      Hi Kim,
      Thanks so much for sending us your question. Former Executive Director of the WA PUD Association, Steve Johnson has this answer: The key here is the word ‘customers.” Bainbridge only has about 12,000 electric customers so we are well under the number that faces the I-937 requirements, so its not correct that we would be “more than 25,000 customers” by the time public power is up and running, that won’t be the case for many years.. That said I think much of the community here is very committed to clean power sources, and in fact a major reason Island Power is working to replace PSE is its dependence on coal and other fossil fuels for 59% of its power. Island Power wants cleaner resources for the island and we will get them with BPA, who’s power plants are carbon free. And with local control we can do things like promote island based renewables, and aggressive conservation, to meet our load growth. We also get a big economic benefit if we spend dollars on the island for power rather than paying for energy shipped from Montana or Eastern Washington- while sending profits to Bellevue and Sydney.

  7. BV Reply

    Hi, in your FAQ you indicate that BPA has committed to meeting Augmented Tier I demand with clean power. Could you point me to where in BPA’s Rate Case or filings I can verify that? I looked in section 3.2.2.3 of the Rate Case and it indicates BPA will use either market purchases or specific resources. To see which one BPA actually plans to use, I looked in the rate case model, and there are no identified specific resources only market purchases. Since market purchases by definition could come from any source, that appears to contradict the idea that only clean power would be used. So I’m wondering where to look to find confirmation of that guarantee that Augmented Tier I demand will lead to additive renewable capacity. Thanks.

    • admin Reply

      Hi BV,
      Thanks for your questions. I contacted Bonneville to get answers to your questions. Here you go:

      1) If Bainbridge were to form a public utility and become a BPA customer they would, by statute, receive preference power from the BPA system and they would receive the BPA fuel mix. If there is additional power available after our public customers’ needs are met, it is then sold into the market. Conversely if there isn’t enough to meet our customer’s needs we would make market purchases to augment the system. It is through augmentation, using market purchases from unspecified resources that bring carbon in to the mix. BPA is not likely to make any long-term purchases for service to Island Power but would rely on the system we already have. So to the extent that the system would have to be augmented once Bainbridge became a customer than there would be more unspecified resources in the BPA fuel mix.

      2) Long-term purchases are pretty unlikely under the current Regional Dialogue contracts but IF, in the future BPA’s needs were to become great enough that we needed to make additional long-term purchases, the Northwest Power Act requires that BPA look at renewables favorably, giving a 10% cost advantage to renewables over non renewables in decisions when BPA decides what to purchase.

  8. Harald Zumbrock Reply

    It is a complete illusion to think that Island Power could deal better with outages. Why would multiple crews on standby be a viable option for a small utility? Where would they come from in a wind storm that affects the larger region? Why would they be cheaper than for PSE?

    For $100,000 a lot of tree trimming could have been done to prevent outages rather than sending the money up through the chimney for some consutants…

    • admin Reply

      Hi Harald,

      Thanks for giving us feedback and asking questions.

      We feel it is not a complete illusion that a public power utility on Bainbridge Island would be more reliable than PSE.

      Public power utilities like Penn Light (Gig Harbor), Port Angeles Electric, Orcas Power and Light (San Juan County) and Steilacoom Electric all have far better reliability records than PSE.  These utilities, many of which are in communities smaller than Bainbridge Island, are more reliable  because they have crews based locally in their service areas, have committed to reliability improvements like under grounding , operate on a non profit basis, all the while delivering lower rates than PSE.  

      When a not-for-profit electric utility is established the island will have crews based on the island ready to respond immediately to outages.  In the event of large scale outages we will, via public power’s “Mutual Aid Agreements,” have access to line crews from the other 62 public power systems in Washington, far more than PSE has with its own and its contracted crews.

      PSE and its supporters talk about the supposed problems of a new public power system.  They never want to talk about their actual record in Kitsap County which is the worst of the 8 counties they serve, and getting worse (see their 2016 Reliability Report http://www.island-power.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2015-PSE-Reliability-Annual-Report-2016-03-29.pdf) nor how poorly they compare with public power systems (see for example Snohomish PUD’s 2016 report http://www.island-power.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2015-Snohomish-PUD-Reliability-Report-2016-08-05.pdf.)

      Public power does often spend more money on reliability than PSE because its priority is serving its customers, and PSE’s priority is sending money to its foreign owners, Macquarie Capital in Australia.  The publics because of their non profit operations can make investments in reliability including under grounding (Penn Light our neighbor in Gig Harbor is 75% undergrounded) and still have rates averaging 25% less than PSE, one of the states highest cost utilities.

  9. Dan Groff Reply

    I’m a big fan of this idea, but I have two questions that affect the potential price:
    1. What if the new Congress and new administration decide to effect legislation that dramatically increases the price of power from BPA?
    2. Given the success of the Elwha dam removal project, how long can we expect BPA’s dams on the Snake and Columbia to survive? …what happens to BPA when the dams are gone?

    • admin Reply

      Hi Dan,
      Thanks for your questions. The bottom line for us is that what ever happens with local control we could develop or buy our own clean power resources, with PSE we are stuck with what they send us.

      1. We have lots of ability to fight back to protect BPA, especially because it’s a public entity.
      2. As we understand it, Trump and his administration are against dam removal, it is far more complicated than the Elwa where their was little opposition. Plus, it’s only the 4 Snake River dams that are threatened- and it will take years if this is to happen. If it did there would be a relatively small rate hit. They may be 5+% of BPA power.

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