Power study has been a sales job | Letter to the editor

To the editor:

I want to share my concerns regarding the city’s consideration of creating and managing an electrical utility.

As someone who has studied, supported and promoted sustainable solutions for more than 30 years, I was interested in supporting the exploration of what we on Bainbridge Island could do to lessen our reliance on non-renewable energy sources. In addition, I am inclined to support local initiatives. So my husband and I are one of the investors in the solar array on the Bainbridge Island City Hall’s rooftop. And we were one of the first households to contribute to the Island Power effort.

At the time, and I shared this with Island Power leadership, I supported an open exploratory effort that would maximize opportunities to increase the use of green energy sources to run homes, businesses, etc. on the Island. I cautioned Island Power leadership on narrowing the lens so quickly to a city-run utility, both because there are other options available that are less expensive, and because frankly, having lived on Bainbridge almost since the city’s incorporation, I have little faith that the city can manage an electrical utility as effectively as promised. Even in the best of circumstances, it would take at least 10 years (perhaps more) to have a smooth running utility.

My observation is that the process, and in particular the study that was funded by the city, has not been an exploration, but rather a sales job.

Just a portion of the $100,000 spent on the study could have been spent on a collaborative and genuine island-wide process to look at what homeowners, business owners, and developers might be willing to do to “green” the energy we use — and to identify ways to work with Puget Sound Energy to make these investments at a fraction of the cost of buying and starting up our own utility.

What we have now is a very strong (and I think minority) contingent supporting buying PSE’s infrastructure and creating a utility that really does not solve all the problems Island Power was looking to solve; meanwhile we also have a strong (and I think majority) contingent fighting the initiative.

This makes me sad, as Island Power was an opportunity for our community to bring about two things: local accountability, and greater energy resilience in the face of climate change.

It now looks like we have the promise of neither.

KATHLEEN O’BRIEN CUNNINGHAM

Bainbridge Island

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