Could Thurston stay green?

October 14, 2012 

Critics of Puget Sound Energy point to its reliance on coal-fired generating plants for 32 percent of its power.

But would a small public utility be any greener?

Initiative 937, passed by voters in 2006, requires power providers servicing 25,000 customers or more to acquire at least 15 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. The requirement began this year at 3 percent and jumps to 9 percent in 2016.

In Washington, power from hydroelectric dams does not qualify as a renewable source.

Many public utility districts in the state have supported a repeal or mitigation of 937’s requirements, because generating power from alternate sources is expensive.

Puget Sound Energy has met its requirement by investing heavily in wind power over the last seven years. It now generates four times as much power from wind as all of the state’s PUDs combined.

That is another reason the Thurston PUD study focused on servicing a small selection of the county. All three scenarios include fewer than 25,000 customers, exempting it from providing any power from renewable resources.

According to the Northwest Energy Coalition, PSE is the state’s leader in energy efficiency. The company has extensive energy conservation programs available. Other electric PUDs in the state also do well on energy efficiency, but Thurston County would be trading down.

Coal will eventually go away for PSE and other power providers. The much larger question is how the United States will generate its future power needs, not comparing PSE with a small PUD.

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