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

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

Learn more about hydroelectricity and why the Columbia River system is so vital to the Pacific Northwest!

www.cleanhydro.org

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

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

Mason PUD 1 Neon SignMason County PUD No. 1 was the first public utility district in Washington State, incorporated in 1934 and beginning operations in February of 1935. Located in Potlatch along the beautiful Hood Canal, PUD 1 serves approximately 5,100 electric customers, 2,000 water connections and manages one small community septic system.

Our electric service district reaches from the Skokomish Valley, across to Union and onward north into Jefferson County to Walker Mountain. However, as a major water purveyor in Mason County, PUD 1 manages water systems throughout the entire county.

Read more about the history and formation of Washington’s first public utility district.