Seattle City Light Submits 2019-2020 Rate Schedule to City Council

Seattle City Light submitted to the City Council today a rate schedule for the next two years that follows the directions Mayor Jenny Durkan gave us during development of our Strategic Plan, which was approved in June.

Mayor Durkan was clear: She directed City Light to identify more areas where we could control costs to reduce the impact on ratepayers. We did just that. Additionally, the mayor expects whomever is selected to become City Light’s next general manager and CEO later this year to continue to look at how to cut costs.

This 2019-2020 rate schedule is designed so that your nonprofit, community owned utility can collect just enough revenue to cover its operating expenses while addressing some of the challenges we face, such as changing energy usage, declining retail energy consumption and an aging workforce.

We will reduce our operations and maintenance budget by 6 percent, beginning with an initial and permanent cut of $18 million in 2019.  Additionally, we will cut capital spending over the next six years 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.

The plan Mayor Durkan submitted and the City Council approved 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.

If approved by the City Council, the rate changes would go into effect Jan. 1.

Statement Concerning Filing of Petition for Review Concerning EPA’s Mid-Term Evaluation of Vehicle Standards

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.

Our new strategic plan to keep delivering essential services, controlling costs, and fighting climate change

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.

What’s next?

Our proposed plan will be presented to a City Council Select Committee on June 14 and June 28. Then it will be considered by the full City Council.

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.

Pend Oreille River Closed to Recreational Activities

The Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office has closed the Pend Oreille River to recreational activities due to safety concerns about extremely high river flows and flooding, as reported by KXLY. That order includes the reservoir at Seattle City Light’s Boundary Hydroelectric Project.

Closure means no boating, swimming or other activity is allowed on the river until further notice.

Anyone planning to visit Boundary or use its campground should check with the Sheriff’s Office for updates on access to the river.

For a look at the water flowing over the spillway at Boundary, watch this video from our Facebook page.

Seattle City Light Seeks Partner for Georgetown Steam Plant

One of the Curtis vertical turbine generators at the historic Georgetown Steam Plant.

Seattle City Light is searching for a nonprofit organization to operate a self-sustaining center for STEAM education – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – and expand public tours at the historic Georgetown Steam Plant.

“The Georgetown Steam Plant fascinates visitors during monthly open houses, and we see the potential for a much more active use as a museum and cultural center that can inspire and educate people of all ages,” Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs said.

City Light owns the plant, which opened in 1907 to provide power for Seattle’s electric street car system and the Seattle-Tacoma Interurban Railway. It’s builder, Frank Gilbreth, was a great innovator and pioneer in scientific management, motion studies, ergonomics and modern construction. It houses the only two Curtis vertical turbine generators left in place in the world. The plant is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a designated National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, a National Historic Landmark and a Seattle Landmark.

More than 7,000 guests have visited the historic building since City Light began opening it to the public once a month in 2014.

City Light released a request for proposals today, seeking interested nonprofit organizations. Under the proposal, City Light would maintain ownership of the steam plant and provide maintenance of the building. The nonprofit partner would take over daily operations of the building, including tours, events and a museum/cultural center focused on STEAM education.

For more information on submitting a proposal, visit http://www.seattle.gov/light/georgetownsteamplant/request-for-proposal.asp

Statements of interest and qualifications are due by July 3 with a partner selection expected by the end of the year.