[BY THAD CURTZ]
Last week, the Olympia City Council decided to buy all of the city’s electricity through a 20-year contract for wind power through Puget Sound Energy’s new Green Direct program. PSE will acquire the power through a new 130 MW wind project to be built by 2019 on the border between Thurston and Lewis counties. Other subscribers include Starbucks, REI and Target; Western Washington University and Sound Transit; King County and the cities of Anacortes, Bellevue, Snoqualmie and Mercer Island.
A long-term contract will insulate the city from unexpected increases in future power prices and inflation, though it also means we will end up paying more than we would have for power if prices or the inflation rate turn out to be lower than expected. According to the PSE forecasts on which the city based its decision, the price of power is expected to go up 2.2 percent a year over the life of the contract, and it includes a fixed annual increase of 2 percent for inflation.
Since the future costs of retiring PSE’s coal plants and potential carbon pricing measures are uncertain, staff thinks this may well be a prudent financial step, in addition to environmental benefits and potential economic benefits for the south county.
Lacey, Tumwater and The Evergreen State College are at various stages of exploring the possibility of subscribing to the Green Direct program. The enrollment period runs through July 31.
A more detailed account of the program is included in a World Resources Institute blog post, “Washington State Pioneers New Model for Utility-Scale Renewable Energy.” The staff report on Olympia’s contract proposal is available here.
ALL OUR SOURCES:
- Tawney, Letha; 2017. “Washington State Pioneers New Model for Utility-Scale Renewable Energy.” World Resources Institute. Posted April 18; accessed May 4.
Thad Curtz is a long-time climate change activist and the publisher of OlyBlog, which should be on your favorites list if it isn’t already.