PUGET SOUND ENERGY'S INTEGRATED RESOURCE PLAN
cOMMENT AND HEARINGS
Agency: Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC)
In November, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) will submit a 20-year energy plan—also known as an “Integrated Resource Plan” (IRP)—to state regulators, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC). The deadline for PSE to file final Integrated Resource Plan is November 15, 2017; shortly thereafter, WUTC will release docket numbers and dates for comment period and hearing. Integrated Resource Plans are one of the WUTC’s primary mechanisms for reviewing each utility’s power resources. Every two years, Washington’s private utilities are required to submit a utility blueprint for expected supply and demand over 10 to 20 years to the WUTC. The WUTC reviews and comments on each Integrated Resource Plan. There is a public comment period associated with the review, during which time the public can raise concerns about future investments being proposed by the utilities. Puget Sound Energy is owned by The Macquarie Group, an Australian based global investment banking group. In 2016, the CEO was listed as Australia’s highest-paid CEO. PSE owns 4 units of the Colstrip Power Plant in Montana, the 15th largest carbon polluter in the United States and the biggest source of carbon pollution in the Northwest. PSE will retire 2 of the 4 units by 2025, but the future of the other two is uncertain. The 20-year Integrated Resource Plan will detail the PSE’s plan to continue using, or to retire, the remaining 2 units of the Colstrip Power Plant. The PSE is required to take public comment on its Integrated Resource Plan, providing the public with an opportunity to voice support or concerns regarding the future of the 2 remaining units of the Power Plan.
WHAT IS THE WASHINGTON UTILITIES AND TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION?
If you happen to live in the service territory for one of Washington’s three private utilities— Avista, Puget Sound Energy, or Pacific Power—you cannot choose who supplies your electricity. Private, investor-owned utilities are monopolies. Each has total control over its service territory. What prevents these for-profit firms from pursuing profit at the expense of their captive customers? That task falls to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). The WUTC’s charge is to ensure that the private utilities provide reliable electric service at lowest-reasonable cost. Washington utilities typically avoid making major capital investments—whether buying new plants or cleaning up old ones—unless they are confident that the WUTC will approve them and allow them to pass along the costs to their customers via their electricity bills. It is for this reason that the long-range plans are critical in shaping our state’s energy future.
WHAT ARE PSE'S OPTIONS?
PSE could lead in seeking the retirement of Colstrip by bringing all the owners together, or they could retire all four of their units and walk away from thus power plant, or they could continue to purchase coal-powered electricity from Colstrip. Additionally, PSE has already announced that they will retire units 1 and 2. Part of their Integrated Resource Plan will include their decision on how to replace coal power when those units go offline: with renewable energy or methanol.
WHAT IF YOU AREN'T A PSE CUSTOMER?
Your expertise is still relevant! If you live in King County, you are a stakeholder in King County’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for the phase-out of all coal-fired electricity by 2025. King County represents half of PSE’s territory. And the externalized costs of coal could also be used in the regulatory decision-making, if clearly and effectively stated in the comment period or as testimony in the public hearing.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES COMING SOON
Contributor: PhD Candidate, Atmospheric Sciences & Digital Arts