To the editor:
I have a wish for Bainbridge Island in 2017, which is we vote by year’s end to establish a public power utility.
Why? The results of the 2016 election cycle hold grim prospects nationally for protecting our environment, including a climate change skeptic in president-elect Trump (“It’s a plot by China!”). Anticipating an emasculated EPA and a vengeful Congress, our best course of action is to act locally.
Our island has the opportunity to reject the expensive and polluting electricity provided by for-profit PSE and switch to renewable public power offered by the Bonneville Power Administration. Besides offering the most expensive power in the state and poor reliability, PSE sells us electricity generated 60 percent by fossil fuels, including a whopping 35 percent from coal. PSE’s power supply remains stuck in the last century, and the coal power they sell us is not competitive in today’s open market. The future for energy lies in renewables. This may be best demonstrated by the recent cost-motivated move by Microsoft — a large energy consumer — to negotiate a disengagement from PSE for purposes of buying renewable power directly.
Thankfully, our city council has contracted a study by experts in the field to assess the potential for a public power utility on Bainbridge Island. The report expected this January will help islanders assess the viability of purchasing renewable power from BPA (97 percent carbon free). BPA already has set aside low-cost Tier 1 power in their allocation for communities such as ours, and the switch away from PSE would lessen the demand for coal power that PSE cannot sell to anyone else.
Let’s act locally in 2017 to establish public power as a community commitment to protect our environment. Local utility management by an independent “Bainbridge Electric Board” can also lower costs in the long term, improve reliability, and create good-paying local jobs, but most importantly we would take a step toward lessening our impact to the climate.