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Clallam PUD supports change to energy act

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

The Clallam County Public Utility District commissioners are supporting an effort to amend the Washington Energy Independence Act.

 

At their Aug. 27 board meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to endorse the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce as it pursues changing the act so it “prioritizes the acquisition of conservation and eliminates the forced acquisition of eligible renewable resources that are not needed to serve load.”

 

The Energy Independence Act mandates qualifying utilities, including the Clallam County PUD, purchase renewable energy to meet targets that incrementally increase to 15 percent by the year 2020. There also are increased energy conservation targets and penalties for noncompliance in both areas, said PUD treasurer/controller Joshua Bunch.

 

The conservation targets alone added $700,000 in costs to the PUD budget, he said.

 

The hydropower used by the PUD is not considered a renewable energy source, said Executive Communications Coordinator Michael Howe.

 

Additionally, the PUD’s projected load growth is about 1 percent annually, which ultimately will lead to the displacement of low-cost, clean hydropower with more expensive renewable resources, he said.

 

“Not only is low-cost clean hydropower not considered renewable under the act, but if we experience minimal  load growth, we are still required to replace that very affordable clean power with power that is 3-4 times more costly,” said PUD Board of Commissioners President Ted Simpson in a news release.

 

At the meeting, PUD General Manager Doug Nass said the act requires utilities to purchase significantly more expensive renewable energy whether they need it or not, which will negatively affect the local economy as a result of rate increases.

 

“Change is needed to protect customers,” he said, adding the proposed change is: “You don’t buy it before you need it.”

 

In a news release, Simpson said the issue really comes down to local control.

 

“Clallam PUD has locally elected commissioners that govern the utility in the best interests of its customers,” he said. “This act mandates how we do that and ... results in increasing rate pressures.”

 

For more information about the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce effort to change the act, go to www.wapower.net.
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