Opinion

Help decide Bainbridge's energy future | Guest Column | April 9

Puget Sound Energy wants to hear from you about Bainbridge Island’s energy future.

Today, the island faces two energy challenges: ensuring adequate electric system capacity and improving electric system reliability. Your voice will help decide how we can address these issues and serve future needs.

For the past two decades, the local community and PSE have worked together to improve electric service on Bainbridge Island. In that time, the challenges facing the island have grown more complex.

Since beginning our community and customer discussions, the island population has grown from roughly 16,000 to 23,000 residents. In addition, electricity use has nearly doubled – from a peak demand of 41 megawatts in 1980 to more than 80 MW today.

As part of working with the community, PSE has completed a number of reliability projects including improvements to our Port Madison substation and off-island transmission lines; and, in the last eight years alone, completed more than 40 projects targeted at improving the reliability of the neighborhood power distribution system across the island.

At the same time, we continue to trim and remove trees to address the greatest risks to maintaining service during high winds and severe weather.

But there’s more work to be done. PSE’s electric system serving Bainbridge Island residents and businesses is now near its maximum capacity, with some components already exceeding their design capacity on days of maximum electric demand (known as “peak load”). In addition, we serve much of Bainbridge Island with only a single transmission line that is vulnerable to equipment failure or storm damage.

Bainbridge Islanders experience more, and longer, outages than other PSE customers. The island’s electricity use is higher than what is used in other parts of PSE’s service area.

For example, single-family dwellings on the island average almost 19,000 kilowatt hours annually compared to our overall average residential use of 11,797 kWh. This is due to the fact that many homes on Bainbridge are older and less energy efficient, as well as rely on electric heat, rather than the natural gas heat available in other parts of the Puget Sound area.

PSE continues to be committed to working together to find solutions to the current and future energy challenges facing Bainbridge Island.

After several years of research, and customer and community discussions, PSE has developed three electric system improvement options for the island. Each includes energy efficiency, conservation and infrastructure components.

Option one includes expanding an existing substation and excludes a new transmission line, minimizing the impact of new infrastructure but offering only modest gains in reliability and capacity.

Options two and three propose a new transmission line and either an expanded or new substation, and will bring greater reliability and capacity for the long term.

Each option has its benefits and challenges. For example, one option may result in fewer power outages to customers, yet have a greater impact on trees and vegetation on the island. We are looking for your input on these solutions.

To learn more about the three electric system improvement options; visit www.PSE.com/Bainbridge; call 425-456-2848; or attend one of our three open house meetings. Comments and feedback are also encouraged online at PSETalk@PSE.com.

I can’t say it enough; Puget Sound Energy wants to hear from you about Bainbridge Island’s energy future. Working together we can effectively address these challenges.

Linda Streissguth,

manager of Government and Community Relations for Puget Sound Energy

PSE meetings

April 13: 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Bainbridge High School Commons

April 29: 3-5 p.m. at Wing Point Golf & Country Club

May 12: 5-7 p.m. at Blakeley Elementary School

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