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Seattle City (spot)Light: Lynne Smith

City Light's Lynne Smith talks about her unusual job in power marketing and how the utility's work reflects her values

Lynne Smith is a relatively new member of the City Light team, now in her sixth month at the utility. She has a bachelor’s degree in math and French from Whitworth University and got into the energy industry on the private side first, working at a company in Bellevue. In this week’s Seattle City (spot)Light, Lynne tells us about her unusual job in power marketing and how City Light’s work reflects her values.

Power Marketer Lynne Smith rockclimbing on Mt. Garfield near Snoqualmie Pass

“Power Marketing buys and sells power every hour as we watch the water levels of all of our hydroelectric projects. I work with our partners in the Bonneville Power Administration on the Columbia River, monitoring it to make sure the water levels and fish flows are where we need to be. Every hour, power marketing assesses where we are with different dams and decides how much power we are going to generate. Then our real time power marketer will buy or sell depending on whether or not we have extra.”

“City Light has a load that needs to be served and that determines our load forecast to satisfy. We can match our generation exactly to our load, or we can generate more than our load. If there is too much water behind the dams and we generate more, or if power prices in the market are cheaper than what it would cost us to run our water, we might sell or buy power,” said Lynne.

“Power marketing has forward marketers that look ahead and try to put us in a good position by balancing what we need. As we get closer to real time, their forecasts get more and more accurate. We’re in an hourly market, so each hour you need to have a set of balanced schedules. Our dispatchers run our water flow and watch our load to the second to make sure it is always balanced.”

“City Light has a portion of federal power generated from the Columbia River. We take a percentage of what is generated there and I manage it by telling the real time power marketer how much power we are going to use from that system.”

“I’m from Seattle, so I like working for my hometown electric utility. I’m also a mountaineer and a climber… Mainly rock climbing. Being really careful and accurate with what you’re doing is very important in mountaineering. You always doublecheck your knots and observe safety protocols, no matter how confident you are in your skills. It’s kind of like making a power schedule every hour. You always need to pay attention, even if you’ve been doing it right for a long time. All it takes is one mistake to have serious consequences.”

“I like that City Light has so much hydropower, and that we get to spend so much time looking at the Skagit River in the North Cascades. It seems common in the energy industry to not worry about conservation. A lot of people are at City Light because it is a greener utility and they care. Since City Light has these great hydroelectric resources, we don’t have to say ‘it’s just business; we burn gas and we burn coal because we don’t have a choice.’ We are lucky where we are situated and with the resources that we have.”