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SALMON OR RENEWABLE HYDROPOWER?

My father helped build the lower Snake River dams.  I’m sure he would turn over in his grave if he knew what some environmental organizations are now proposing.  For example, Wendy Gerlitz of the Northwest Energy Coalition (NWEC) recently opined that the region must choose between healthy populations of wild salmon and removing the Snake dams. NWEC’s solution is to remove the dams and replace them with more energy conservation and new wind/solar projects. In reality, salmon and dams, including the Snake dams, are co-existing and thriving – good news for those who care about restoring salmon and reducing carbon emissions.

No matter how many times NWEC makes their assertion, it simply doesn’t change the facts. Read more

Nation’s First Carbon Tax?

March, 2016-

When I opened this morning’s paper the headline read, “Washington Considers Nation’s First Carbon Tax.”  At a recent Washington PUD Association meeting we discussed the various carbon reduction policies that are currently in play in Olympia as well as Washington DC.  There are multiple policies that could impact our cost of providing reliable electricity to you the ratepayer. To list a few:

  • At the direction of the Governor, the Department of Ecology began working on developing a cap on emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from large emitters in the state called the “Clean Air Rule.” Recently, Ecology announced that after receiving feedback from the public and stakeholders, they are withdrawing the proposed rule, updating it, and will release a new proposed rule this spring. Their goal is to finalize and adopt the Clean Air Rule this summer.
  • Ecology is also taking the lead on development of a plan for the state to comply with the President’s Executive Order/EPA Clean Power Plan rule that sets CO2 emission limits for the nation’s existing power plants. While the state is currently working on the compliance plan, the future of the EPA Clean Power Plan is uncertain. The U.S. Supreme Court imposed an injunction on implementation of the rule while legal challenges are addressed.
  • In addition, there’s an initiative (I-732) before the state legislature that would impose a tax on carbon emissions from the generation of electricity used by consumers in Washington State with the funds going toward a 1% reduction in the state sales tax, a reduction in the B&O tax on manufacturing, and to provide funding for the working families sales tax exemption. If the legislature doesn’t enact it, the initiative will go to voters to decide in the fall.

How would all these measures impact Mason PUD 1?

Because the Clean Air Rule and Clean Power Plan are still in development, we don’t know how those policies will ultimately interact with each other or with I-732, should the initiative pass. Because the initiative has already been drafted, we do know more about potential impacts to our PUD.

If enacted, the initiative’s carbon tax would start in 2017 at $15 per metric ton of CO2, rise to $25 in 2018 and increase by 3.5% plus inflation annually until it reaches a cap of $100 per ton in 2016 dollars. The tax would impact what we and ultimately you pay for electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration. During low water periods, BPA has to make market purchases of electricity. Market purchases come from a pool of unspecified electricity resources; meaning the source of electricity isn’t identified (think grab-bag of electricity). The Initiative assumes the unspecified resources have a certain level of carbon emissions and would apply the tax based on the assumed emissions. According to the initiative proponents, the intent is to treat these resources as if they were coal generation. That means at the $15 per ton level, our cost of power would increase approximately $60,000 in a high water year and $212,000 in a low water year. These costs will vary with the tax increasing annually until the $100 per ton cap is hit.

Regardless of the approach, as our community, state, and nation considers measures to reduce carbon, I believe it is important to ensure that carbon reduction policies are complementary and not additive. We should avoid conflicting or redundant policies that may increase costs without a corresponding reduction in carbon emissions. We should also ensure that our polices ensure reliability of the electric grid, and that they provide value to our community.

We are fortunate in that we are starting from a good place. 95% of the electricity used to serve customers is from zero-carbon resources- mainly clean, renewable hydropower. As your elected representative, I am honored to work to protect and maximize the value of our reliable, low-cost and clean hydropower resources.

In the interest of keeping our community informed on policies that may impact the costs and delivery of services, I plan to call a public hearing on Tuesday, May 10th at 1:00 p.m. at the District board room to provide information on the various approaches to carbon reduction and to hear from you, the owners of our system.  Following the work session, the Board may vote on a resolution that will outline our official position on the various carbon reduction efforts.  We look forward to a productive conversation and hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Karl Denison

Commissioner, District 1

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An 80 Year Tradition of Public Power

February marked the 80th year of public service for Mason County PUD No. 1. While Homer T. Bone is often cited as the “father of public power”, one very influential public power supporter in our state was Morrison F. Pixley.

Pixley was a land developer and the nephew of Frank M. Pixley, the celebrated founder of The Argonaut, one of the most influential publications in California in the late 1800s. After the great San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Pixley purchased land along Hood Canal from lumberman John McReavy, with the hopes of creating an artist colony called “Yacht Haven”, what would later become Union City. In 1916, Pixley moved his family from California to their new estate just west of where Alderbrook Resort now sits, and became fast friends with another local artist named Orre Nobles. Read more

Emergency Preparedness is Everyone’s Responsibility

December, 2014

Emergency Preparedness is important.

In October, the PUD participated in the Great Washington Shake Out earthquake drill and earlier in the year employees revised our Emergency Response Plan. We have to be ready so that when the devastating earthquake does finally hit, we have a practiced plan in place to help get the power back on and provide water to our customers while you all work to get your own homes and business back in order. We also actively participate in County-wide disaster planning with other public agencies.

While it may be a while before we have a large scale disaster, it’s very important to make sure that you’re prepared to survive without vital infrastructure such as power, water, phones, road access, transportation and especially food and heat. Read more

Time to Dispel the Myths about Used Nuclear Fuel

June 2014-

By: Commissioner Jack Janda
On a recent tour of the Hanford Site with the Energy Northwest Executive Board, I was struck by the difference between the nuclear waste the Department of Energy is dealing with from our country’s defense programs, and what some people call nuclear “waste” from the generation of electricity.

Used Nuclear Fuel - Dry Storage Area

People tend to confuse nuclear defense waste with used fuel from commercially-operated nuclear energy facilities like the used fuel stored at Columbia Generating Station, the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear energy facility. But there is a key difference. Unlike high-level radioactive liquid waste at Hanford, used commercial reactor fuel is, and always remains, a solid ceramic pellet.

Read more

CleanHydro Highlights Hydropower and River Values

April, 2014- Mason County residents are seeing something on TV and in other media that has been a part of our way of life for over 75 years, yet is often overlooked: how hydropower dams and the incredible power of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia and Snake Rivers benefit our daily lives.

This public education effort is CleanHydro. It’s coordinated by Northwest RiverPartners, an organization that promotes a balanced approach to managing the federal hydropower system on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Mason County PUD 1 and PUD 3 are members of this group and are proud to support its efforts. Hydropower seems to have faded in the public’s awareness, along with the understanding and appreciation for the tremendous economic and environmental values of this resource.

The reasons for this are twofold. First, many people have moved here from other places where they didn’t grow up with dams and hydropower. Also, younger generations are not learning about hydropower as they used to.

Second, the energy industry has changed dramatically with the huge growth in other renewable sources of energy, particularly wind. While this has played prominently in the media, hydropower has been overlooked. This gives the perception that these newer technologies are the only renewables in the region.

That’s why Northwest RiverPartners continues to tell the incredible story of our dams, hydropower and Columbia and Snake Rivers. Last year, the CleanHydro campaign increased awareness and support for hydro by demonstrating its value to the Pacific Northwest’s environment and economy. After the campaign, 77 percent of those polled identified hydropower as a clean, renewable source of energy, up from 72 percent. Public support for state and federal laws to identify hydro as a renewable resource has increased by six percent.

The work is not done, which is why it is so important to both of Mason County’s PUDs to be a part of this public education effort again this year.

Hydropower accounts for 75 percent of Washington State’s renewable energy. Mason County PUD 1 receives 88% of its energy from hydro, while PUD 3 receives 87%. Hydropower is clean; it doesn’t burn fossil fuels and it keeps our carbon footprint about half that of other parts of the country. Hydroelectric power is inexpensive power. It costs much less compared to wind, coal, nuclear and other energy sources.

Hydropower and the Columbia and Snake River commerce system provide many other benefits to the region. Tugs and barges use the rivers to transport billions of dollars worth of agricultural and other products to the world and employ thousands.

CleanHydro is about reviving the conversation about the importance of hydropower. It’s about reminding people of the tremendous energy, economic, and environmental benefits these resources bring to their everyday lives. Telling that comprehensive story helps people appreciate these benefits and understand why they make the Pacific Northwest the envy of the rest of the country.

Take a moment to visit CleanHydro.com, which features information about our hydropower. We have a great story to tell. We are proud to be a part of it and hope you’ll join this conversation.

Ron Gold, Board President, Mason County PUD 1                         Tom Farmer, Board President, Mason County PUD 3

Increase Water Power

Olympia and Washington, D.C. appear to be in love with high cost wind and solar power while discriminating against low cost hydro power. Generous government subsidizes are provided to encourage the development of these new intermittent resources.

For example, if a homeowner puts solar panels on their rooftop, they can get a credit from the state of 54 cents for each kilowatt produced, when using solar components made in Washington State. Wind developers receive generous investment tax credits and production tax credits from both state and federal governments and ultimately you, the taxpayer. The cost of hydroelectric energy is about three to four cents per kilowatt hour, while wind costs 11 to 12 cents per kilowatt and can only be relied on about 30% of the time. It must also be firmed up with other resources, often power or natural gas turbines. Without significant advances in low cost energy storage technology, intermittent wind and solar will never be a low cost, self sustaining resource like hydropower.

In my opinion, it’s time to level the playing field. Hydropower needs to be considered an eligible renewable too. If governments are going to provide incentives to build carbon free energy resources, they shouldn’t be picking the technology or the winners and losers; that is the job for utility experts who understand the complexities of keeping the electricity flowing 24/7.

By including new, low impact hydroelectric in the State’s renewable portfolio standards, both the ratepayers and the taxpayers will save money. After all, hydropower is really free solar energy with storage. Mother Nature, via the sun, evaporation, condensation and rain, recycles water continuously- from the mountain tops, to the ocean and over again. Hydropower is the simplest and most cost effective energy resource in the world with the lightest environmental footprint. Don’t you think it’s time for a change from Olympia? That’s my view.

Sincerely, Karl Denison Commissioner, District 1

Protecting Local Control

An Op/Ed from Jack Janda, chair of the Mason County PUD No. 1 board of commissioners and Linda Gott, chair of the Mason County PUD No. 3 board of commissioners.

Mason County’s two public utility districts, PUD 1 and PUD 3 proudly serve their customers with safe, reliable electrical service at the lowest reasonable cost. Both districts are concerned about a recent policy statement from the US Department of Energy that, if allowed to proceed, could have drastic impacts on wholesale electricity rates. Further, it could erode the very basis of public power in the Pacific Northwest: local control. Read more

People, Power and Politics

I write this article with the intention to inform you of some issues important to public power rate payers and to explain why you continue to see your electric bills increase. Like many Northwest utilities, most of Mason County PUD No. 1’s power is hydroelectric and purchased from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). For the last year, PUD 1 and other members of the Public Power Council and Energy Northwest consumer advocacy groups have been working with the U.S. Department of Energy and BPA to ensure that BPA continues their mission to supply cost-based power to our local utilities. In addition to BPA’s role as a cost-based power supplier, BPA must adhere to subsequent laws and mandates, including mitigating the impact of the federal hydropower system on fish and wildlife. Read more