Electic PUDs and our PUD

Watch the debate of the two candidates for Thurston PUD commissioner (district 3) here:

Something they keep on coming back to is whether the PUD should branch out from water and become an electric company as well. I wasn't sure of either's position at the end of the debate, I just got that both know that its something they need to consider.

Something to consider is the impact of establishing new PUDs to replace Puget Sound Energy provided electricity. The Washington PUD Association says PUDs could save money:

With access to low-cost power from the Bonneville Power Administration, a new electric-service public utility district would be able to charge rates up to 20 percent lower than rates projected for Puget Sound Energy, according to a study released today by the Washington Public Utility Districts Association.

The analysis by EES Consulting, a Kirkland-based management consulting firm specializing in the energy and other natural-resource-based industries, found that PSE rates have gone up sharply over the past several years – nearly 25 percent since 2002, or almost twice the national average.

PSE now has the highest rates of any electric utility in Washington, with the exception of a small utility serving the islands of San Juan County, and is asking the Utilities and Transportation Commission for permission to raise residential rates another 8.25 percent.

Here's the rull report. Earlier the WPUDA said that new PUDs wouldn't cost the state tax revenue (press release and white paper).

On the other hand, a PSE sponsored study says that start-up costs, including purchasing infrastructure, would be prohibitive to starting a new PUD.

So, should we recast our local (weird) water utility to supply power as well?


Not all of Thurston County

is under PSE. A small sliver of the extreme western edge is under Grays Harbor PUD. If you drive west on Highway 8, the power lines cease at Summit Lake and then for two or three glorious miles (Sasquatch and Cougar Country) there are no power lines. Then, maybe a half mile before the county border, GH PUD power lines pick up. 

A Public Utility District is always preferable to a private corporation as the administrators are more accountable and the voters have more control.

Even better is the situation, as in McCleary, where the City itself is the utility. We know the linemen by name and can corner the Mayor on the street to complain if we have to. The smaller the utility the better. Our utility is a holdover from the days of Henry McCleary. When he opened his door plant it was an all-modern all-electric state of the art facility. But when he sold it to Simpson on the last day of 1941 it was prehistoric. Yet, that system evolved and has served as our electric utility ever since, even though we are surrounded by GH PUD.

Recently I had the opportunity to ask a PSE staff person about their annual report for 2009. The answer I got was there might not be an annual report next year as the configuration of the corporation (i.e. having stockholders in the first place) might drastically change. But she wasn't sure. Such are the risks and uncertainties of private enterprise.

And yet, electricity is now a basic need.  

In a situation like this, do the Thurston County consumers have a say? Apparently not.


distributed power & the grid

Well, I'd say that the option also exists to encourage smart growth with distributed power generation, from a variety of sources. Certain "at the point of use devices" are better at converting fuel into electricity and heating/cooling energy than some of the technology used on the grid, and cuts line...

...and I'm a big fan of solar, wind power, and co-generation. Residential use and commercial use can complement each other vs just compete for rates-

-The topography of Olympia is prime for micro-hydropower is our grey water system and I'd also encourage small wind power stations that combine community wireless broadband transmitters in town coupled with larger units on Capital Peak...

...and considering the volume of the tidal basin in the Capital Pond, I wonder if a catchment could be installed that would capture tidal flow and drain back thru a series of waterwheels to generate electricity.

I'll be interested to see if this [local power co-op/PUD idea] develops more momentum, and thanks for the post Emmett.