It’s hard to pick the proper superlative to describe 2020. It was a year that has affected us all in some way while being a year that we’ll never forget. Even at its darkest moments, we still witnessed sparks of the resilient human spirit and glimpses of hope for a brighter tomorrow.
As we look ahead to 2021, we wanted to take one last look back to reflect on this unforgettable year. Here is a snapshot of our 2020.
Supporting our customers amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Like everyone else, City Light had to maneuver and adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through it all, our employees were up to the task and were unwavering in their commitment to power and empower the communities we serve. In March, City Light mobilized to expedite support for customers struggling to afford their utility bills, along with shifting operational procedures and protocols such as planned outages and additional safety measures.
The pandemic continues to impact our customers in a multitude of ways, especially financially. If you are in need of financial assistance, visit seattle.gov/light/assistance/.
The passage of the Transportation Electrification Plan to guide Seattle City Light’s investments in an electrified transportation system
Mayor Jenny Durkan applauded City Council’s passage of City Light’s Transportation Electrification Strategic Investment Plan, an important step in committing resources and making investments to modernize our electric grid and enable a once-in-a-century transformation of the Seattle area’s transportation ecosystem.
The plan sets the priorities for future programs and services and describes how the utility will bolster and modernize our electric grid to enable public transit charging, support freight and commercial fleets and provide flexibility for personal mobility. City Light centered this plan on three key values:
- Equity – to ensure benefits are focused to support and uplift underserved communities.
- Environment – to improve air quality and public health.
- The grid – operating the electricity delivery system as a community asset to deliver public good.
The plan reflects City Light’s engagements with the cities in our service area, with the communities we serve, and with our partner agencies to further our modernization and customer-focused missions, including ensuring that investment in transportation infrastructure results in equitable outcomes.
Seattle City Light recognized as No. 1 West Midsize Utility in J.D. Power 2020 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study
City Light received the highest customer satisfaction index score of any midsize electric utility in the western United States, according to the J.D. Power 2020 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study. The overall satisfaction index examines six factors: power quality and reliability; corporate citizenship; price; billing and payment; communications; and customer contact. Seattle City Light received the highest score (5 of 6) in the following: power quality & reliability; corporate citizenship; price; billing & payment; and customer contact.
City Light replaced over 1,400 wood utility poles in our service area to enhance safety and reliability
City Light made considerable progress in replacing aging utility poles throughout the utility’s service area as part of the accelerated pole replacement program, which was created in 2019 to improve safety and reliability. After an investigation following an April 2019 incident that resulted in the failure of 26 poles, City Light committed to more quickly replacing poles to address a backlog of approximately 6,000 poles deemed in need of replacement or reinforcement. Given the availability of resources (materials, crews, contractors, funding), the utility aims to replace 1,000-2,000 poles annually over the next several years, depending on available resources and budget constraints due to the COVID-19 response.
City Light joined the Western Energy Imbalance Market
On April 1, City Light officially joined the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) Energy Imbalance Market (EIM). This program uses state-of-the-art technology to find and deliver low-cost energy to meet real-time demand across eight western states. In addition to the real-time market benefits, the ISO started a stakeholder initiative process to extend the day-ahead market to EIM participants next year, offering greater value in the market. Benefits for EIM participants have totaled more than $861 million since its launch in November 2014. It has also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more efficiently integrating clean energy into the grid.
Seattle City Light announced several new public electric vehicle (EV) fast chargers in the city of Seattle. The publicly accessible stations are part of a pilot program to install 20 EV fast chargers throughout the utility’s service area and support the city’s Drive Clean Seattle initiative, which centers on delivering community-focused transportation solutions.
The newly installed chargers were placed in the following locations:
- Magnuson Park (located off of Sportsfield Drive NE on the west end of the W6 parking lot)
- Madison-Miller (East Olive Street, between 21st and 22nd avenues)
- Alaska-Junction (39th Avenue SW, between SW Oregon Street and Fauntleroy Way SW)
With the holidays looking a little different this season, one thing has stayed the same at City Light: our employees’ dedication to giving back. The City Light giving workshops have been busy this holiday season, with our employee elves spreading a little extra cheer across the region.
Planting trees to study climate change
The innovative Stossel Creek Pilot Project replanted portions of logged land now owned by City Light to grow a new forest that could be more resilient to climate change. City Light and its partners, including Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Seattle Public Utilities and the Northwest Natural Resource Group, received a $140,000 grant to reforest land around Stossel Creek in the Tolt River watershed northeast of Carnation. The grant money is being provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society through its Climate Adaptation Fund, a program supported and established by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
In early 2020, City Light and its partners planted 14,000 tree seedlings as part of this project. Watch KING 5’s story about the planting here.
City Light completed multiple capital improvement projects
While the pandemic brought a series of challenges, City Light was committed to completing projects to enhance the utility’s infrastructure. As always, the utility took the proper precautions to keep both our employees and the communities we serve safe.
The launching of the new City of Seattle utility services website
City Light and Seattle Public Utilities launched the City of Seattle’s new utility services website. This upgraded site includes a suite of benefits to enhance your customer service experience. Learn more about the site at myutilities.seattle.gov.
City Light offered free energy-efficient lighting and water savers to small businesses and nonprofits to help ease the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program helped businesses with inefficient incandescent, halogen, or compact fluorescent lighting by installing LEDs.
City Light educated students with the help of our Energy Heroes
These free educational workshops and classroom presentations for teachers and students in grades 1-8 focus on renewable energy, sustainability, energy conservation and electrical safety. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team converted the workshops to a virtual format. The team received positive responses from teachers.
Lori Fowler, the senior gardener at City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project in the North Cascades National Park Complex, maintains the numerous gardens around the towns of Newhalem, Diablo, and the three powerhouses and dams that make up the project. During the weeks of shut down, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Lori was able to work, but the effects of social separation took a toll. So, she began the “Plants in Power” gardening club for the local residents and employees. Click on the title to read her story.
These are just a handful of stories and accomplishments from City Light’s year. We want to thank our incredible employees and our customers for their support throughout this year.