Seattle City Light Sells $265M in Bonds, Customers Benefit

Seattle City Light successfully sold $265 million of bonds on Wed., Oct 22, 2014. The sale provides $172 million in new money to support the utility’s capital investments, including upgrades to its aging infrastructure that will improve electric service reliability for customers. The remaining funds will be used to refinance 2004 bonds at lower interest rates. This will result in $7.2 million in annual savings for Seattle City Light customers, toward a commitment by the utility to save $18 million per year by the end of 2015.

The bonds sold at an average true interest cost of approximately 3.1 percent, the best rate received on a City Light long-term bond sale in recent history. The low rates are a result of good market timing, the utility’s solid financial position and a good credit rating, which was upgraded last year (Moody’s – Aa2/Stable, and, Standard & Poor’s – AA/Stable).

“This $265 million bond sale will greatly benefit our customers; helping the utility deliver critical system upgrades and improvements while keeping our customers’ rates low and predictable for many years to come,” said Jorge Carrasco, Seattle City Light General Manager.

To learn more about City Light’s six-year strategic plan, including specific investments and savings targets, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/light/stratplan/

Boundary Dam’s Unit 53 Generator is Back Online

Boundary Dam’s electrical generating unit 53 is back up and running for the peak generation season on the Pend Oreille River. The generator was repaired in half the time it typically takes for this type of project and $1 million under budget.

Unit 53 returned to service in the Boundary Dam powerhouse in time for the Pend Oreille River’s highest flows of the year.

On April 27, 2013, the generator experienced a severe electrical short disabling the unit right before peak generation, causing an estimated $6 million to $7 million loss in surplus power sales between April and July of 2013. Industry experts determined the unit needed a full replacement of the electrical windings in the generator core; this type of work is known as rewinding. Unit 53 was last rewound in 1982 and was scheduled for maintenance in 2017.

To uphold a commitment to serve City Light customers with low-cost, reliable power, crews, engineers and project managers prepared an emergency contract and work plan approved by General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco to bring Unit 53 back to service in time for the 2014 snowpack runoff.

Repair costs were estimated at $18 million and were paid from City Light’s capital improvement projects budget, having no effect on ratepayers.

Such projects typically take two years to complete. The dedicated project team worked diligently and strategically to complete overhaul Unit 53 in less than 12 months and $1 million under budget.

“The project is an example of how a completely focused team, with exceptional project management, can come together and rebuild a machine in half the time we would typically take,” Carrasco said.

Boundary Dam

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’s Trash to Generate Even More Clean Electricity for City Light

 

The Columbia Ridge power plant in Oregon.

Seattle’s trash will soon generate even more clean energy for Seattle City Light customers.

Waste Management is doubling the generating capacity of its Columbia Ridge landfill gas power plant in Oregon and City Light will buy all the electricity it produces.

“Even the trash we throw away is a resource that can be used to generate clean electricity,” said Jason Rose, Area Vice President. “We are completing the circle of sustainable practices, maximizing the resources of even our garbage to find new, alternative energy in an environmentally responsible manner.”

Seattle Public Utilities ships Seattle’s garbage to Columbia Ridge for disposal. Since 2009, Waste Management has captured the methane created by the decaying garbage and used it to fuel a power plant on site. City Light then purchases the electricity that is produced and uses it to help power the more than 400,000 homes and businesses it serves.

Currently, Columbia Ridge has the capacity to generate 6.4 megawatts of electricity. The expansion is expected to be ready for commercial operations in August with a new capacity of 12.8 megawatts. That’s enough electricity to power about 12,500 typical Seattle homes.

More generators like these are being added at Columbia Ridge to generate more clean electricity from Seattle’s trash.

“Adding the increased generation from Columbia Ridge to our energy portfolio helps us meet our customers’ electricity needs, continue our status as a carbon-neutral utility and meet the new renewable energy goals of Initiative 937,” City Light General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said.

“Opportunities like this are how we limit our environmental impact while delivering reliable electricity to our customer-owners at some of the lowest prices in the country,” he said. “It’s another example of why we are the nation’s greenest utility.”

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.

City Council Approves Seattle City Light Strategic Plan

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a 2015-2020 Strategic Plan for Seattle City Light today.

The new plan is an update of the utility’s 2013-2018 Strategic Plan. It will help City Light deliver what customers want most: reliable energy at an affordable cost. Customers have asked City Light to offer tools such as instant access to energy usage data; ways to save money and lower energy use; reduced outages; and better customer service. The plan addresses all of these, and more.

The updated plan will keep City Light rates at some of the lowest levels in the country. New technology will help monitor and manage the power lines in real time to reduce outage frequency and duration. Master planning for improvements at the utility’s aging service centers also will take place to improve efficiencies and reduce risks. The plan also lays out a path to lessen the likelihood of rate surcharges during poor water years and increases operational efficiencies that will save the utility at least $18 million per year by 2015.

The plan furthers City Light’s rich tradition of environmental leadership with renewed investment in energy efficiency incentives, renewable energy, climate change adaptation research, and customer outreach. City Light is the nation’s first carbon-neutral utility and is a leader in discovering new and innovative conservation strategies and fish-friendly operation of our hydroelectric projects.

“In the first two years of our Strategic Plan, we have made significant progress in reducing costs and investing in aging infrastructure while providing our customers with low, predictable rates,” General Manager Jorge Carrasco said. “More remains to be done, particularly as we find new ways to promote energy-efficiency in the face of flat load growth, and I thank Mayor Murray, the Council and the Review Panel for encouraging us to look for innovative solutions.”

Eleven years ago, City Light went through some of the toughest times in its 100 year history. The West Coast energy crisis hit and the utility had no financial reserves. Its bond rating was downgraded, an aging infrastructure had been neglected, and customer satisfaction was low. Today, the utility’s finances are strong, its bond rating is the highest of any Pacific Northwest public utility and customer satisfaction is at an all-time high.

“This strategic plan builds on our past successes and drives us towards our vision of providing the best customer experience of any utility in the country,” Carrasco said.

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.

New Decant Facility Helps Nation’s Greenest Utility Protect Environment, Reduce Costs

A vactor truck delivers water pumped from underground vaults to City Light’s new decant facility.

A new facility in South Seattle is helping Seattle City Light protect the environment, streamline operations and reduce costs for our customer-owners.

City Light recently completed construction of a $1.5 million carbon filtration decant facility at our South Service Center on 4th Avenue S. The facility pretreats storm water and solids that utility crews collect from electrical vaults and slurry from pole excavation activities so it can be disposed of in a cost-effective manner while meeting all federal, state, and local environmental regulations.

“We’ve been having to haul liquids and solids from vaults all the way to Fife,” General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 15. “It’s very expensive to do that,” he said. “Just as important, we’ve always wanted to do the right thing environmentally.”

Some of this water comes from underground vaults that crews must empty before they can perform maintenance work. City Light also collects the water we use when crews dig holes with hydro excavators for many utility poles. Instead of a metal augur, hydro excavators use high-pressure water jets and suction hoses to remove soil, reducing the risk of damaging other underground equipment like gas, water, communications and sewer lines that might be in the area.

Before the new decant facility opened, a treatment plant in Fife was the closest option for City Light to properly dispose of the water we collected. Operating our own facility will save the utility at least $125,000 per year in operating costs and reduce the amount of time employees spend hauling large quantities of storm water to Fife. It also will cut down on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by our trucks, which helps us remain carbon neutral because we’ll have less to offset.

Those efficiencies will help City Light continue to provide some of the lowest cost electricity in the nation to our customers in an environmentally responsible manner. That’s one more reason we call ourselves the nation’s greenest utility.

The facility now operates at the southwest corner of the South Service Center grounds. It was designed by Gray & Osborne and built by McClure and Sons Construction.