Seattle City Light Supports Renegotiation of Columbia River Treaty

Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River — Photo by US Bureau of Reclamation

Seattle City Light is pleased by an announcement that the United States and Canada will begin negotiations in 2018 to modernize the landmark Columbia River Treaty, which has supported hydropower operations, flood control, irrigation, municipal water use, navigation and recreation on the international river since 1964.

“We’re thankful to the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation for their support in getting Columbia River Treaty negotiations started with Canada, American Indian tribes and Canadian First Nations,” City Light’s Interim Power Supply Officer Robert Cromwell said. “It’s time to modernize the operations of the Columbia River for power, flood control and address important ecosystem functions.”

Under the existing treaty, river users in the United States, including hydroelectric dam operators such as the Bonneville Power Administration, pay Canada for power production and flood control support provided by their reservoirs. The U.S. electric utilities and agencies covered by the treaty believe they are paying too much for that power production and flood control support.

City Light supports the regional recommendation that was submitted to the U.S. State Department in 2013. It calls for:

  • Better address the region’s interest in a reliable and economically sustainable hydropower system and reflect a more reasonable assessment of the value of coordinated power operations with Canada;
  • Continue to provide a similar level of flood risk management to protect public safety and the region’s economy;
  • Include ecosystem-based function as one of the primary purposes of the treaty; and
  • Create flexibility within the Treaty to respond to climate change, changing water supply needs and other potential future changes in system operations while continuing to meet authorized purposes such as navigation and irrigation.

Such changes could reduce Seattle City Light’s costs for the electricity it buys from BPA by $9 million to $11 million per year.

More details about the regional recommendation are available here.

Rate Decrease for City Light Customers Coming in October

A message from Chief Financial Officer Paula Laschober of Seattle City Light.

Starting Oct. 1, 2017, Seattle City Light customers will see lower bills following a rate decrease of approximately 1.6 percent. This decrease was made possible by City Light’s proactive management of its power supply contract with the Bonneville Power Administration.

It is part of the Mission of City Light to deliver affordable electricity services, and this rate decrease is the equivalent to $13 million in annual savings for City Light customers.

In addition to lower bills, the rate decrease will partially offset the scheduled rate increase in January 2018. To meet the needs of Seattle’s rapid development, population growth and its attendant energy demands, and to maintain aging infrastructure to ensure reliable electricity service, City Light implements rate changes approximately every two years. These changes provide the utility sufficient revenue to implement its Strategic Plan, which is developed in partnership with residential and commercial customers and publicly approved with a biennial ordinance by the Seattle City Council.

City Light strives to keep rates low by constantly evaluating our internal business processes to improve operational efficiencies. We also adjust based on external factors that might influence our rates, such as weather impacts or the recent Bonneville Power Administration cost change.

City Light is pleased to offer our customers this rate decrease and will continue to work to fulfill our Mission of delivering affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible electricity services.

Seattle City (spot)Light: Lynne Smith

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.”

Seattle City Light, BPA, EPRI to Host Data Center Efficiency Workshop

Seattle City Light, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), and the Electric Power research Institute (EPRI) are conducting a workshop March 10 that will explain how to provide a reliable, more efficient operating environment for data centers and IT equipment rooms that could reduce an entire building’s electric costs by 5 to 10 percent.

Data Center and IT equipment rooms are often one of the largest energy uses in a commercial building.  Even a small server room, can consume more than half the electricity used in a commercial building.

Often the cooling systems in these facilities use more power than the IT equipment itself.  Poor air management in these rooms also reduces the reliability of the cooling equipment which can lead to equipment failure.

The workshop at the Museum of Flight in Seattle brings together data center operators, utilities, and industry players to explore the challenges that face modern data centers in cooling, with a focus on efficient airflow management. Experts will share insight into best-practices for airflow management in data centers. Essential tools to build a business case for these solutions will be provided. In addition, a panel of utility participants will delve into the impact and success of utility incentive programs for energy efficiency, and how the measurement and verification process for incentives can be streamlined for these measures.

A detailed agenda and registration are available online via the EPRI website. The cost is $50.

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 about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.

Seattle City Light, BPA, EPRI to Host Data Center Efficiency Workshop

Seattle City Light, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), and the Electric Power research Institute (EPRI) are conducting a workshop March 10 that will explain how to provide a reliable, more efficient operating environment for data centers and IT equipment rooms that could reduce an entire building’s electric costs by 5 to 10 percent.

Data Center and IT equipment rooms are often one of the largest energy uses in a commercial building.  Even a small server room, can consume more than half the electricity used in a commercial building.

Often the cooling systems in these facilities use more power than the IT equipment itself.  Poor air management in these rooms also reduces the reliability of the cooling equipment which can lead to equipment failure.

The workshop at the Museum of Flight in Seattle brings together data center operators, utilities, and industry players to explore the challenges that face modern data centers in cooling, with a focus on efficient airflow management. Experts will share insight into best-practices for airflow management in data centers. Essential tools to build a business case for these solutions will be provided. In addition, a panel of utility participants will delve into the impact and success of utility incentive programs for energy efficiency, and how the measurement and verification process for incentives can be streamlined for these measures.

A detailed agenda and registration are available online via the EPRI website. The cost is $50.

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 about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.