Island Power fails at economics and civics | Letter to the editor

To the editor:

A recent letter to the Review suggested that Island Power will provide better response times to storm outages with local crews and work on reliability upgrades like under-grounding power lines and smart grid programs.

How will Island Power be more effective at under-grounding transmission lines? The community rejected PSE’s last attempt in 2011. Please see the following Review article for a memory refresh: http://www.bainbridgereview.com/news/pse-seeks-permit-to-bolster-reliability-50-trees-at-risk/

October’s most recent wind event created more than 20 simultaneous outages on Bainbridge. Many of them required multiple crews to repair. Last year we had a few events of even larger magnitude. Island Power’s claim that local crews will be more effective is unrealistic. PSE has the option of dispatching crews from all over the region to assist quickly in time of need. Unless Island Power is planning on keeping 30-plus crews on standby at all times, there is no way for them to provide equivalent, let alone better, response time.

I agree we may choose to invest in smart grid technology to better manage household loads, reducing usage. Island Power has no monopoly on smart grid programs. PSE has already engaged our community with pilot programs, some dating back to 2009. For example: https://www.metering.com/puget-sound-energy-to-undertake-smart-grid-enabled-demand-response-pilot-program/.

Rate hikes are always painful. Consider the shock Jefferson County residents are pondering: http://www.ptleader.com/news/pud-sets-nov-for-rate-hike-hearing/article_801eac08-9b06-11e6-ac0f-fbfa854512b5.html

Unfortunately the laws of economics do not work for Island Power. If our community is concerned about cleaner and more reliable electrical power, we should be engaging PSE to find better solutions to lower carbon sources and working through our own obstructionist issues.

I have learned how approachable, reasonable and receptive PSE executives have been to my requests to discuss these topics. If our community put the equivalent effort into working with PSE rather than re-inventing the wheel with Island Power we could accomplish something positive. Suggesting the only way to improve a complicated system is to throw it away, then put a bunch of inexperienced folks behind the wheel is naïve and irresponsible.

Island Power fatally damaged their mission and reputation by railroading their $100K, lopsided, taxpayer funded, consulting project through city council. Let’s focus on realistic and meaningful change and do what Island Power has never done and sit down with PSE and develop a mutually beneficial plan for the future.

ROBERT FRAIK

Bainbridge Island

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