Seattle City Light Nears Incentive Cap as Solar Generation Increases

As more people install solar panels on their homes, Seattle City Light is approaching the state-set limit for payments of solar energy production incentives.


Rapid growth in the installation of solar energy systems is pushing Seattle City Light to the state-imposed cap for solar production incentives.

City Light anticipates reaching the limit for incentives, which is set as a percentage of the utility’s revenue, during the state’s 2016 fiscal year (July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016). Solar customers should expect to see a proportional reduction in incentive payments.

Among the reasons City Light is about to reach its cap are:

  • A trend toward the installation of larger solar systems
  • Sunnier weather that has increased solar production
  • And decreasing retail electricity sales for the utility.

At this time, City Light estimates that the proportional reduction in incentive payments for solar customers will be 31 percent for the state’s 2016 fiscal year.

Solar customers receive a variety of additional benefits for engaging in solar generation. Benefits include federal solar investment Tax Credit, Washington State sales tax exemption for systems less than 10 kilowatts and net metering benefits. These benefits will not be affected by the incentive payment reduction.

To stay updated on details of the solar incentive cap, visit the City Light Solar Incentive Website at .

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 statement on President’s Clean Power Plan

Seattle City Light Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs

Today, Seattle City Light Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs issued the following statement in support of President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan after the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) released final regulations that will, for the first time, set federal carbon emission limits for existing power plants:

“Seattle City Light, a carbon neutral utility since 2005, has long advocated for action to address climate change and supports EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

“We believe that the impact of climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the electric industry. Research we have undertaken and our recently developed Climate Adaptation Plan shows that climate change has significant effects on the reliability of our system.

“Utilities such as Seattle City Light that depend on hydropower face loss of snow pack and glaciers as well as increased frequency and severity of floods on our rivers. Overall, the industry will face increased risk of fire, sea level rise, severe storms and landslides that threaten power lines.  For these reasons, we urged the Obama Administration to ensure that the final rule delivers meaningful emission reductions from existing power plants and encourages investment in clean energy technologies.

“Seattle City Light will continue to invest in energy efficiency for our customers and in environmentally sound renewables.  While we are still reviewing the details of the plan, we are confident that the final rule provides the states the flexibility needed to design their program implementation to address state specific characteristics and impacts.  Seattle City Light looks forward to working with Washington State and other stakeholders as we develop a strong and effective state implementation plan.”

Seattle City Light on Track to Meet I-937 Goals

Seattle City Light is on track to meet the energy conservation and renewable energy requirements of the Washington Energy Independence Act, which was approved by voters as Initiative 937.

In addition to a requirement for large utilities to have 15 percent of their energy portfolios come from new renewable energy resources by 2020, the law also outlines energy conservation targets to be met every two years.

City Light used the Utility Analysis Option to set our two-year conservation target. City Light completed a Conservation Potential Assessment in 2014 to identify achievable and cost-effective energy conservation potential.

This study identified a biennial energy conservation potential of 207,437 megawatt-hours for 2014-2015 and a 10-year conservation potential of 1,037,184 megawatt-hours. The Seattle City Council adopted these targets with Resolution #31487.

City Light is ahead of pace in meeting the 2014-2015 goal. Through the end of 2014, City Light achieved 159,033 megawatt-hours of savings. That means halfway through the reporting period, the utility has already achieved 76.7 percent of its 2014-2015 biennial target. City Light relied on Bonneville Power Administration’s IS 2.0 reporting system to capture all its energy conservation savings for 2014, which reflects the most current data available as of May 2015.

City Light is required to submit a report on its progress in meeting the conservation targets to the Washington Department of Commerce by June 1.

In 2015, City Light needs to have I-937 eligible renewable energy resources equivalent to 3 percent of retail sales.  City Light will meet this requirement with our purchase of energy produced by the Stateline Wind Project, the Priest Rapids dam and Wanapum dam, and renewable energy credits we get from our purchase from the Bonneville Power Administration.

The Stateline wind farm is one source of new, renewable energy for Seattle City Light.

In 2016, the target increases to 9 percent of sales.  City Light will meet this requirement with contracts already signed with geothermal, biomass, bio-gas, and wind-powered projects in the Northwest.

Sonic Bloom Inspires Musical Streetlights in South Korea

Sonic Bloom

Sonic Bloom, a solar powered artwork commissioned by Seattle City Light that delights visitors to Pacific Science Center has inspired the Seoul Municipal Government in South Korea to install musical streetlights.

According to Korea Times, the planned Seoul streetlights “will include playing tunes that best match the weather of the day, and changing them based on the movement of people underneath it.” Read the full Korea Times story here.

Sonic Bloom was created by Seattle Artist Dan Corson, who has been exploring green design and new technologies and how these tools can frame and amplify the natural world and our shifting relationship to it.

The artwork consists of five giant flowers that are powered by solar panels on the tops of the blooms and the science center roof. When people walk by, the each of the flowers “sings” a different musical note. At night, the blooms light up in a variety of colors.

A grant from City Light’s voluntary Green Up program and in-kind donations paid for the Sonic Bloom installation. Green Up allows customers to invest in renewable energy and sets aside some of the money collected from participants to promote awareness.

Among the other numerous projects locally and nationally that Corson has created are “Wave Rave Cave” under the Alaskan Way viaduct for City Light, the “Rain Drum Courtyard” at the Cedar River Watershed Visitors Center in North Bend for Seattle Public Utilities and the green and black striped “Safety Spires” at the Sound Transit maintenance facility.

Seattle City Light Thanks Green Up Customers for Supporting Renewable Energy

Clean, affordable hydroelectricity supplies 90 percent of Seattle City Light’s power.  Add to that a zero carbon footprint and a 35 year history of energy conservation, and you can see why we are the nation’s greenest utility. 

The Pacific Northwest outside of City Light’s service territory is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels.  So we’d like to thank our Green Up participants for making a big difference in our region by supporting new renewable energy sources. 

From January to October 2014, City Light Green Up participants added 80,760 megawatt-hours of clean, green energy to our region’s power grid, avoiding the release of 108 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  That’s the equivalent of planting 1,258,873 tree seedlings or taking 10,337 cars off Seattle’s streets.

Way to go!  You’re making a difference every day. 

Want to go further?  You can support adding more clean, green energy right here in your own backyard with Community Solar.  Find out more and sign up today.