Mayor Mike McGinn and a group of business leaders endorsed a strategic plan for Seattle City Light that is designed to guide operations, investments and rates at the municipally owned utility.
“Seattle City Light’s low-cost, reliable electricity is a significant driver for our economy. It’s one of the biggest reasons businesses choose to locate in Seattle,” McGinn said. “This plan enhances the utility’s ability to maintain that vital service, supports necessary investments in the electrical system and outlines the anticipated costs for everyone who pays a City Light bill.”
“Seattle continues to benefit from wise energy decisions our early leaders made to invest in clean, renewable hydroelectric power,” McGinn said. “I support this plan because it ensures that we can reliably carry that legacy forward for the next generation.”
McGinn sent the plan to the City Council May 8. The Council will spend the next six weeks reviewing the plan. It is likely to come before the full Council sometime in mid-June for a vote. After the plan is adopted, a rate proposal covering only the next two years will be submitted later in the year as part of the budget process. After that, rate decisions will be determined after the strategic plan is reviewed every two years.
“As City Council works with Seattle City Light to adopt a final plan, it is critical that we align our conservation efforts and include new tools to help all our customers better manage their bills, especially low-income households already struggling to make ends meet,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Council’s Energy and Environment Committee.
City Light developed the plan after extensive discussions with residential and business customers about what kind of utility they wanted.
“Power reliability is absolutely critical to our scientific operations,” said Scott Rusch, senior vice president of facilities and operations at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “Without it we run the risk of losing millions of dollars in life-saving research in the event of a prolonged outage. City Light’s strategic plan features a major investment in the form of a new substation not far from here. The new substation will benefit the Center and the greater Seattle business community.”
If approved, the plan would commit City Light to increasing efficiencies in its operations that could save about $18 million annually, beginning in year three of the plan. It also means building a new substation in the North of Downtown area to support the energy demands created by growing business development throughout the greater Seattle area – the first new substation in 30 years. And it means putting more investments in infrastructure on a regular basis, similar to City Light’s efforts to regularly trim trees to prevent outages during storm season. The plan spells out the expected rates customers would pay, providing cost predictability business leaders have long sought.
“Before we asked customers to pay more for their electricity, we had to make sure we were operating as efficiently as possible,” City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. “This plan starts with operational changes that will reduce costs and help us continue to provide some of the lowest rates of any urban utility in the country.”
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.