Public Power

Cities and even countries around the world are taking their power back by creating public utility districts, coops and municipalities.

Across the country, between 2004 and 2014, 12 new public power utilities were formed (link) — ten from the service areas of investor-owned utilities.

Jefferson County PUD, with its county seat in Port Townsend, is an example of a public electric utility that was recently created nearby. Residents voted in 2008 to replace PSE with a new public not-for-profit electric utility.

In May 2015, an article from the Port Townsend Leader looked back on the first two years of public power:  Public Power Two Years Later (link). In sum: Despite stumbles that we on Bainbridge could learn from, public power has been a success in Jefferson County, with many of the long-term benefits still ahead. And in August 2015, an article described the fact that Jefferson County rates are now LOWER than PSE’s rates (link).

An April 2014 article reflected on the first year (2013) as a public power utility: PUD: A year of public power in Jefferson County (link).

A March 2016 OpEd in the Port Townsend Leader,  “Perspective: PUD: On the bright side, we’re greener than PSE by far,” (link) is an honest account of how the PUD is doing three years into its public power activities in Jefferson County. The Jefferson County electric utility board member who wrote this OpEd is showing a lot of integrity by avoiding sugar coating. But there are also good factual achievements that are reported. And, bottom line, the power is MUCH greener than PSE’s.

Interesting that the article also notes that in the next 3 yrs Jefferson PUD hopes to offer residents: (1) the ability to invest in community solar power, and (2) the ability to subscribe to high-speed broadband internet connectivity from the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet).

“Within this same timeframe, Jefferson PUD will assume administrative responsibility for the broadband system currently run by NoaNet. This will provide an opportunity to partner with local internet service providers and expand access to high-speed internet in areas of the county that are currently unserved or underserved.”

No matter what happens, conservation has got to be part of our plan for the future. In fact, looking at the WA State Electric Utility Resource Planning (link) document you can see they expect resources to go down and that conservation and efficiencies are needed in the future.

 

CASE STUDIES in WA


EllengsburgCity: City of Ellensburg
Website: City of Ellensburg Utilities
Size: 9,200 ratepayers; population 18,174
MW : 23.7MW
Type of Power (hydro, solar, wind, etc.): 100% from BPA (tier 1)
User Types: residential, commercial, and industrial
Utility Model (municipal, PUD, co-op, board): Municipal
Studies: City of Ellensburg Energy Efficiency & Conservation Strategy 2012

ELLENSBURG (info from their city website except where noted):
The city’s electric utility serves approximately 9,200 customers over 50 miles of overhead conductor and 38 miles of underground cable. All new growth within the system is built with long-life, underground cable in conduit and includes loop-feed capability wherever possible. The existing aerial facilities are in excellent condition due to continuous maintenance work over the years.

The utility currently purchases all of its power from the Bonneville Power Administration which delivers power to the city’s two electrical substations. The current capacity of the electrical distribution system is such that we are able to almost double existing loads. Future plans include building a substation on the north end of town to meet growing demand, assist loop-feed capability, and to continue the high level of reliability city electrical customers have enjoyed.

Ellensburg’s electric power purchases from the BPA are divided into two tiers. Ellensburg’s demand has been small enough to draw power at the tier 1 rate for the past few years, but it started drawing its first, and much more expensive, tier 2 power purchase at the beginning of the month.

Tier 1 power has an average annual cost of about $32.50 per megawatt, Rowbotham said, while tier 2 power costs about $43.84 per MW.

The utility has also promoted renewable energy.  The public can view a completion report on the Smart Grid Demonstration Project that included solar energy and wind turbines.  A more detailed report on the specific data of each wind turbine is also available.

 

PtAngelesCity: PtAngeles
Website: Port Angeles Utility Information
Size: 10,750 customers; population 19,038
MW : 83.5MW
Type of Power (hydro, solar, wind, etc.): 100% from BPA (tier 1)
User Types: residential, commercial, and industrial
Utility Model (municipal, PUD, co-op, board): Municipal

The Light Operations Division of the Public Works Department operates and maintains a system of 8.8 miles of 69kV subtransmission, 127 miles of overhead, 42 miles of underground 12.47kV distribution system, and 7 substations.  Light Operations serves approximately 10,750 customers within the 13.5 square mile city limits of Port Angeles.

 

 

 

JeffPUDCounty: Jefferson County
Website: Jefferson County PUD
Size: 18,000 customers
MW : 41.4MW
Type of Power (hydro, solar, wind, etc.): 100% from BPA (tier 1)
User Types: residential, commercial, and industrial
Utility Model (municipal, PUD, co-op, board): PUD
FAQs about transition from PSE to Jefferson PUD.

 

 

 

 

CentraliaCity: Centralia
Website: City of Centralia Utilities
Size: 10,065 ratepayers; 16,505 population
MW : 31MW (12MW generated by their own Yelm hydroelectric project)
Type of Power (hydro, solar, wind, etc.): Centralia City Light Department’s Yelm hydroelectric project has provides over 25% of the power its customers need. The remainder is purchased through long-term contracts with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).
User Types: residential, commercial, and industrial
Utility Model (municipal, PUD, co-op, board): Municipal
Studies: City of Centralia 2014 Electric Utility Resource Plan

 

 

 

Seattle
City: Seattle
Website: Seattle City Light
Size: 400,000+ ratepayers; 652,405 population
MW : 9.7 Billion kWh
Type of Power (hydro, solar, wind, etc.): 92.4% hydro; 4.1% wind; 3.5% other (Nuclear, Coal, Natural Gas, Biomass, Waste and Petroleum)
User Types: residential, commercial, and industrial
Utility Model (municipal, PUD, co-op, board): Municipal
Studies: 2014 Conference Presentation (bullet points below from presentation):
  • Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States.
  • It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents.
  • City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in USA to achieve that distinction.

 

More Information on public power:


The American Public Power Association has published information about forming a public power utility and what’s involved. One of the publications is called Straight Answers to False Charges Against Public Power (PDF).