There’s nothing better than Seattle in the summertime. But with temperatures approaching 80 degrees this Fourth of July, you may be looking for ways to beat the heat. Here are a few tips from the U.S. Department of Energy* on how to keep cool and conserve energy without breaking the bank! Check out this month’s issue of Light Reading for more innovative ways to conserve energy this summer from planting a tree to using your slow cooker. Click here to take a look!
City Light crews recently completed important work ahead of Sound Transit’s East Link Extension. Thirty-nine utility poles were placed and upgraded wire was installed in a section of the Mt. Baker neighborhood.
The investment in infrastructure will provide power to Sound Transit’s planned traction power substation. The new substation will help electrify light rail to the Eastside.
City Light appreciates customers’ patience during this important project. More information can be found here.
Josh Walter first began his City Light career as an intern in 2008. In 2009, he returned to the utility and now serves as a Strategic Advisor for the Power Contracts, Regional Affairs and Strategic Planning division. “We advocate for City Light and our resources to participate in energy markets in the West to benefit our customers,” Josh explained. “We work directly with the Bonneville Power Administration and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and try to make it easier and cost effective to bring our hydro resources into various market opportunities.”
A Montana native, Josh attended Washington State University and later transferred to Montana State University where he graduated with a degree in political science. He also spent two years in AmeriCorps and attended law school at Vermont Law School. “I started law school with the intent of studying environmental law,” Josh explained. “At the time, our school offered a new curriculum that specialized in energy. I found myself moving away from the environmental focus and spent more time on the energy law and policy side of my legal studies.”
Josh lives in South Lake Union but is moving to the Leschi neighborhood with his wife Kelly and their two children, Amelia (four years old) and Leo (ten months old). In this week’s (spot)Light, he talks about his role at the utility and shares a few of his hobbies.
“I grew up in Butte, Montana. It was everything you could want as a kid. I was surrounded by mountains and rivers and spent a lot of time outside. I’ve always enjoyed living in places that have great access to the outdoors…. Montana…. Washington…. Vermont. When I was in AmeriCorps, I served as a crew leader for the Montana Conservation Corp and spent a ton of time in Yellowstone. That was beautiful.”
“I’ve been trying as much as I can to get back into running. Historically, it’s something I’ve done quite a bit, but has just gotten harder with two kids. I like running along the waterfront. I’m also a woodworker. I do quite a bit of woodworking when I have the time. I’ve made cabinets, tables, and various other pieces of furniture. There are quite a few things floating around our house that I have made…our dining room table…cutting boards…our book shelf. Recently, I made a vanity for my parents’ home.”
In terms of his work at Seattle City Light, “our group conducts a lot of research and participates in numerous and diverse stakeholder groups. This mainly consists of utilities getting together to discuss initiatives to see where we might fit in; and for Seattle, how these potential activities will benefit our customers. For example, Bonneville or CAISO may have a new idea or a change to a current business practice. We participate to influence what the ultimate outcomes are. We’re advocating to make it better for City Light and our customers.”
“One of the great things about this work is I’m always working on something new. Things move relatively slow in the energy world, but there’s enough change in issues to keep it interesting. There’s a lot of new, innovative, interesting things to keep us intellectually stimulated. We have a great workgroup. I also like that my interest in the environment is an important theme here. I value the fact that environmental issues are a major focus of the utility.”
At an event and demonstration today with the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle City Light, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the first-in-the-nation partnership today between Seattle City Light and the Seattle Fire Department to more effectively fight fires in underground electrical vaults.
“Seattle has always been at the leading edge, and thanks to this innovative partnership, Seattle is now at the leading edge of fighting fires that are a danger to the public, our infrastructure, and our economy,” said Mayor Durkan during a demonstration of the new approach at City Light’s North Service Center. “This is the kind of collaboration and innovation we need as we work to deliver essential services, protect the public, and provide reliable electricity that powers Seattle. I am grateful to the men and women of the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle City Light who have made this vision for partnership a reality and who put themselves in harm’s way to limit the impact of these dangerous fires.”
The event included members of the Vault Response Team, which is comprised of specially trained Seattle Firefighters as well as executive members from both departments and other advocates of this partnership.
Last month, SFD Chief Harold Scoggins and City Light Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs reached an agreement to solidify the partnership between the two departments and the Vault Response Team. The 48 members of the Vault Response Team will be continually trained to safely address the public safety needs resulting from network vault fire incidents. City Light will provide specialized supplies and equipment to treat these fires along with updated intel on City Light’s network maps.
Fire Chief Harold Scoggins praised the partnership for its innovation and what it means for other departments across the country.
“Vault fires create dangerous situations in confined spaces. Before this team was created, standard procedure was to keep the area clear and wait for the fire to burn itself out. This partnership, which takes an offensive approach, is a major advancement in our field and is an example that other energy providers and fire departments want to learn from. We are proud and thankful to have this vital resource here in Seattle.”
Electrical vault fires can be caused by something as simple as a cigarette butt landing on a pile of dried leaves or as critical as an arc flash created during maintenance. Their impact is costly and can be dangerous to the public and the firefighters extinguishing them. Within an instant, the pressure of a vault fire can launch a 300-pound utility cover up to three stories. To further complicate matters, these fires may cause large-scale power outages.
The fire department and City Light are deploying a new technology that can effectively and efficiently extinguish vault fires. With a financial contribution from City Light, the fire department revived an older truck that was scheduled for decommission to address these kinds of fires.
Armed with carbon dioxide canisters, Seattle firefighters can now remove the utility hole cover, insert a metal wand and inject the vault with carbon dioxide while covering the opening with a fire-resistant tarp. This removes the oxygen from the area, snuffing the fire by robbing it of oxygen. It is an offensive approach that keeps the fire from spreading throughout the entire vault system. Once the fire is out and the vault is cleared of smoke and carbon dioxide, City Light can de-energize electrical equipment, making the area safe for crews to begin repairs.
“This partnership enhances the safety of our both departments’ employees. We are exchanging information on safety practices and institutional knowledge while training together to ensure that these fires are extinguished safely and efficiently,” Baggs said. “Not only will this process reduce the amount of damage from these fires, but it can also greatly reduce the repair and outage time. This partnership is an insurance policy for our customers, the economic drivers in Seattle’s business core and for the public servants who address these fires.”
This technology reduces the potentially disastrous effect of these kinds of fires. While this method is crucial, the partnership between the fire department and City Light is the key ingredient to ensure its success. For Seattle Fire Captain Chris Greene, the technology behind extinguishing these fires is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
“There are a variety of great products available to handle high-voltage emergencies, but without a partnership, fire departments and utilities are missing a key component,” explains Greene. “CO2 and other chemical extinguishers are in fact effective, but it’s an engineered solution to a problem that can have significant impacts. The true solution is a foundational relationship with the energy provider like City Light that builds long before a fire begins.”
Martha Molina celebrated two-years at City Light in early June. As the Return to Work Coordinator, Martha works in the utility’s Safety division. “I act as the liaison between the Seattle Department of Human Resources and City Light’s supervisors, managers and injured workers,” Martha explained. “In my role, I help bring people back to work. Studies show that the quicker an employee returns to work following an industrial injury, the better chance they have for a 100% recovery as opposed to being away from work.”
Martha was born in Guatemala, but also lived in Los Angeles for six years before moving to Seattle. “I moved here when I was ten, so I’ve spent the greater part of my life in the Northwest,” Martha shared. “I haven’t been to Guatemala since I was four. We have a big trip planned this summer and I can’t wait!”
Martha lives in Federal Way with her husband Mario and their two chihuahuas, Buttercup and Dixie. In this week’s (spot)Light, Martha talks about her volunteer work and how it’s applicable to her role at the utility.
“I went to Highline College, transferred to the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in political science. I originally wanted to be a lawyer, but after working at a law firm, I realized that it wasn’t for me. The law firm where I worked specialized in worker’s compensation. From there, I went to a risk management group. Both of those experiences gave me a good foundation for the work I do now. I’m able to interpret code and laws and know how to apply them.”
“I do a lot of work with the community, specifically with young woman empowerment. I help young girls develop their skills for professional careers and, overall, build their self-esteem. I recently presented at the ‘Young Educated Ladies Leading’ (Y.E.L.L.) Summit where girls 14 – 18 years old participated in a variety of different workshops. It’s so important to develop those life skills. It’s also important to have an outlet; to learn how to speak for yourself and to be confident in who you are and how you feel. Those are themes we focus on at these Summits. My presentation was titled ‘Embracing your Inner Monsters.’ It’s fun to work with youth and teach them that no matter what challenges or obstacles you face, there is still opportunity to grow and be successful.”
“I also volunteer with Hispanic Seafair. I help with interview workshops, resume reviews, drafting cover letters…topics that align with career and vocational pursuits. Ironically enough, throughout the claims process, there is a portion that deals with vocational assessment which ties into my day-to-day work at City Light! Also, go Huskies!”
On Tuesday, Seattle City Light and other electric utilities filed a petition for review in the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) determination that EPA’s existing greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and trucks are not appropriate and must be revised.
Electrification of the transportation sector is a key strategy to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.
“City Light is making significant investments in electric vehicle infrastructure and charging facilities to help advance our customers’ adoption of clean vehicles and achieve emission reductions,” Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs said. “We have already installed two fast charging stations and are working to install 18 more. We also are investing heavily in charging facilities for electric vehicles in the city’s fleet. These investments are part of our overall commitment to modernize the electric grid and continue delivering clean, reliable power to our customers.”
The determination we have challenged is an abrupt reversal of the conclusion EPA reached just 15 months earlier, when it found that the standards were appropriate based on a comprehensive technical assessment conducted in coordination with the Department of Transportation and California.
Late last month, EPA’s own Science Advisory Board voted to review the adequacy of the science cited by EPA in support of its reversal, after a board work group found that EPA had relied extensively on information that had not been adequately validated or peer reviewed.
City Light remains committed to moving forward in support of electric vehicles and opposes EPA’s reversal. We will continue to support strong greenhouse gas emission standards that will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles across the country and help mitigate climate change.
Alfred Love has been at City Light for three years, but just celebrated 20 years of service with the City of Seattle. He began his career in the Parks and Recreation department and is now the Credit and Collections Supervisor in the utility’s Customer Care division. “People hear the word ‘collections’ and think negatively, but that’s not the case for us as the customer is the one making contact,” Alfred explained. “We deal with closed accounts, move dates, unreceived bills and finalize open transactions.”
A longtime resident of the Northwest, Alfred grew up in Rainier Beach. He lives in Kent, but is still active in the Rainier Beach community. Alfred and his fiancée, Ashanti, have five children and one grandson. In this week’s (spot)Light, Alfred talks about his volunteer work in the community and why he enjoys customer interface.
“I used to go to the Rainier Beach Community Center when I was a kid. I was always there to play basketball. Eventually, I started coaching which led to a position working in the after-school program. I was in high school at the time, so it was a part-time position, but eventually I applied for a full-time position as a recreation attendant. I’ve always enjoyed positions that were customer facing.”
“I’m still very much involved with the Rainier Beach Community Center. I’m the head coach of two basketball teams and the founder of the Seattle Youth Recreation Foundation (SYRF), which is a non-profit organization for the youth. I created the organization to help the kids at the community center have a better team experience. We take the kids to an annual travel basketball tournament and other monthly outings. It gives them the experience of being on a team without having a certain level of skill or finances to support the endeavor. It’s a recreational team. I’ve been running SYRF for nine years. It’s a wonderful experience. I’m also a minister at Spiritual Blessings Christian Church which also keeps me going.”
“I’ve been coaching basketball for 30 years. I’m now coaching kids of kids I use to coach! I’m still running plays from my early years of coaching and my previous players, who are now parents, are recognizing those plays! It’s funny how it comes back full circle. But the play still works, so why not?! I’m a basketball guy; a community guy. I just love to do what I do and keep it going.”
“My desire to serve and help others ties into my role here at City Light. I like coming up with process improvements and looking at things from different perspectives. It helps to serve our mission of customer service. We don’t want our customers to go to collections. That’s not our goal. Our goal is to prevent them from getting there. There are different programs we implement to help streamline the process. I’m always looking at ways to update that process and make sure that things are in a constant state of improvement. Like I said, I’ve always enjoyed positions with customer interaction.”
The Seattle area is growing and evolving – and Seattle City Light is poised to respond.
Over the past several months, we’ve worked with Mayor Jenny Durkan to develop a new six-year Strategic Plan that reflects our shared priorities and addresses some of the challenges we face as a utility, like changing energy usage, declining retail energy consumption and an aging workforce.
To tackle those challenges, we’ve developed a plan that focuses on four priority areas:
- Strategies to control costs, capture new revenues and restructure rates
- Modernizing customer service
- Promoting the efficient use of clean energy
- And investments in infrastructure and the workforce to provide a consistent level of service, reliability and response.
To help control our costs, we responded to Mayor Durkan’s direction to all City departments to identify budget reductions from our proposed 2019-2020 proposed budget.
We will be reducing our operations and maintenance budget by 6 percent, beginning with an initial and permanent cut of $18 million in 2019. Additionally, capital spending will be curtailed over the six-year plan by over $240 million – a 9 percent reduction. We’ll carefully manage these budget reductions to minimize future service impacts and financial risk through a rigorous capital prioritization framework, budget review and monitoring of performance metrics.
Even with such cost-saving measures, our costs to operate and maintain generation facilities, transmission lines and our distribution grid continue to rise. To account for those costs, we will need to make some changes to customer electricity rates.
In our planning process, we had initially proposed a plan that projected a 5.1 percent six-year average rate increase and included a 6.5 percent increase in retail rates in 2019 and 2020.
But Mayor Durkan was clear: She directed us to adjust our plan, to identify more areas where we could control costs and therefore reduce the impact on ratepayers. We did just that and developed a reduced budget proposal that incorporates a lower “rate path” over the six-year plan.
The new plan Mayor Durkan submitted to the City Council includes a lower electricity rate path with an average of 4.5 percent increases over the next six years. For a typical residential customer, those changes would amount to an $3.77 per month in the first year and less in subsequent years. Participants in the City’s Utility Discount Program would pay an additional $1.50 per month in the first year. And a small business, such as a coffee shop, could pay approximately an additional $42 per month in the first year.
Given our long history of innovation and visionary action, we are confident we will successfully navigate the challenges we face and reach new heights as we keep customers’ bills affordable and stable. We power Seattle, and we’re proud of it.
For more details, you can read our proposed Strategic Plan here.
Seattle City Light crews recently installed an electrical duct bank on 1st Avenue South, between South Royal Brougham Way and Railroad Way South. Crews excavated on 1st Avenue South to install the new electrical duct bank. Traffic was detoured to the outside lanes during construction.
The completion of this project will aid in replacing aging electrical infrastructure and increasing electrical reliability for the SODO and Pioneer Square areas.
City Light thanks its customers for their patience during the successful completion of this project.
For more information on this project and others in your area, please visit Seattle City Light’s “At Work in Your Neighborhood” website.
Starting this June, Seattle City Light crews will be working to improve electrical reliability in the Yesler Terrace neighborhood by installing new utility poles, overhead wire and equipment. This work is needed to replace aging electrical infrastructure and upgrade the existing electrical system.
Though the sequence is subject to change, crews will begin construction in several phases:
- Phase 1: 11th Avenue East between East Terrace and Spruce streets
- Phase 2: Alder Street between Terry Avenue and Broadway
- Phase 3: East Alder Street between Boren and 11th avenues
- Phase 4: East Alder Street between 11th and 12th avenues
- To be determined: Boren Avenue and Broadway street crossing
Customers can expect temporary parking and lane restrictions in the immediate work area during construction work hours.
Maintenance power outages are required to do the work safely. Customers will be notified in advance of any outage.
Construction is scheduled to begin on June 11 and last approximately two months. Daily work hours are from Mondays through Fridays, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Crews may need to work on weekends as well.
For more information, customers can contact Percy Schlimm, Senior Electrical Service Representative at (206) 386-1735 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Seattle City Light’s “At Work in Your Neighborhood” website for the latest updates on this project: http://www.seattle.gov/light/atwork/release.asp?RN=410.