The best power plant is one you never need to build | Guest Column | April 24

By Council Member Hilary Franz

This week Puget Sound Electric Company (PSE) held a public meeting at the Bainbridge Commons to discuss a proposed substation and transmission lines for Bainbridge Island.  

As they shared at the meeting, PSE is bound by the electrical needs of our community.

Due to the growth of our island’s power demand, PSE is forecasting that they will need to begin the construction of a new power transmission substation as early as 2011.

I believe that our island is in the position of delaying or averting the installation of the proposed 25 MVA substation in 2011.

To get there, however, will take the commitment of all of our community to energy efficiency, changing energy usage habits, and alternative energy. It will require approximately 1-2 MW per year reduction in our peak demand.

PSE announced at the meeting that they are willing to work with the community and develop ways in which conservation may be used to meet this ambitious goal.

We should take them up on this offer. Efficiency and conservation must be at the top of the list of solutions to our energy challenges.

The most efficient and environmentally responsible fossil fuel-based power plant is the one that you never need to build.  Before we assume that the adding of another substation is the only solution to our needs, we should more wisely use what we already have.  

PSE shared with us that the average Bainbridge single family residence uses 19,000 kwh annually, while the average PSE single family residence customer uses only 11,797 kwh.

We should maximize efficiency measures and work with PSE to provide programs to our Island community to increase energy efficiency in our homes, businesses, and organizations.

The benefits of doing so go farther than avoiding or delaying a substation; energy efficiency and conservation can lower energy bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

To delay or prevent the substation, we need to focus on our peak load.  Peak load is how PSE calculates its production requirements.

As individuals, we can make minor changes in our energy habits to shift the demand during the peak time and offset the strain to our electrical grid.

Simple steps here could be used from shifting electrical usage at certain times in our day during the winter months, setting our thermostats lower and to heat at non-peak times, or placing a jacket on our water heaters to increase efficiency.  

In my meetings with PSE over the last several months, PSE has expressed interest in working with our community to reduce our energy needs and peak loads to delay or avoid another substation.  

The mobilization of citizens, organizations, and our city leaders around energy efficiency and renewable energy as a means of delaying or preventing the substation has gotten PSE’s attention.

It is the leadership that Community Energy Solutions brought, supported by Cedars Unitarian Church Green Sanctuary, Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, Earth Service Corps, Sustainable Bainbridge, Transition Town, and other citizens and businesses in the community around renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as the commitment we have made to work together.

PSE sees that our community is willing to work towards reducing our community’s energy load.

This last week, PSE contacted me to discuss specific energy efficiency programs they would like to work with our community on to reduce our energy needs and peak loads.

PSE’s proposal includes a mechanism to encourage consumers to reduce peak demand, thereby reducing the risk of potential disturbances and possibly avoiding additional capital cost requirements for additional substations.

I invite you to attend a Community Energy Meeting from 7-9 p.m. April 30 at the Bainbridge Island Commons to discuss as a community our local energy challenges, share proven energy alternatives and community success stories, look at forming a Community Energy Task Force, and discuss in detail the programs PSE has put forth and what we as a community want to do together to reduce our energy consumption and peak load.

I look forward to seeing you at the community meeting. If you have questions or thoughts, feel free to contact me by email at hilary@hilaryfranz.com or by telephone at (206) 734-9729. 

Hilary Franz is Bainbridge Island City Council member.

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