Kent seeks to buy wind, solar power from PSE

Green Direct program would reduce city’s carbon footprint

City leaders decided to get Kent in line to potentially buy wind and solar power from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

Kent wants to participate in PSE’s Green Direct program, where businesses and municipalities purchase energy from renewable resources rather than coal or natural gas.

The city of Kent this summer joined 13 other King County cities and agencies as a member of the King County Cities Climate Collaboration, which aims to reduce global and local sources of pollution that contribute to climate change.

“It has given us this opportunity – now that we have made this commitment to climate issues – to take some steps as a city to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to some new renewable power sources,” said Danielle Butsick, city senior planner, in her presentation Aug. 21 to the City Council.

PSE gets about 37 percent of its fuel from coal, 31 percent from hydroelectric, 22 percent from natural gas and 9 percent from wind, according to its website.

“We think it’s a good thing for the city of Kent,” Council President Bill Boyce said. “There should be a cost savings to the city, but also I think it’s the right thing to do for renewable energy.”

Under the Green Direct program, PSE gets commitments of 10, 15 or 18 years from businesses and municipalities to buy wind and solar power, said Heather Mulligan, PSE market manager of customer renewables, in her report to the council. PSE has negotiated a power purchase agreement with a wind energy developer in Lewis County (south of Olympia) that will start operations in 2019. PSE expects to get a contract with a solar project developer in south central Washington to produce power in 2021.

Kent will pay a fee for the wind and solar power, but then receive a credit for the portion of energy charges that it’s replacing with renewable energy.

“You are buying 100 percent renewable energy and paying for it, so you get credit back for the energy you replaced,” Mulligan said.

Participants drive the development, Mulligan said. When a developer knows enough customers have signed up to purchase energy, building of the facility starts. PSE expects to buy 137 megawatts from the wind facility and 120 megawatts from the solar facility.

Butsick estimated the city would save about $316,000 over 15 years based on its 2017 daily usage at city facilities, including the accesso ShoWare Center, City Hall and the Centennial Center.

“It’s a potential savings,” Butsick said. “It’s not a massive amount but it’s an investment in renewable energy. It is a way to start achieving goals we adopted by ratifying King County policies.”

Butsick said a savings isn’t guaranteed.

“There is some risk,” Butsick said. “The $316,000 is not certain, it’s based on how much conventional power rates increase. If that doesn’t increase, we won’t save as much money but studies show conventional power will increase.”

Kent plans to apply Aug. 31 to PSE for the program, going with the 15-year plan. It’s a first-come, first-served basis through email.

“We do expect we will sell out,” Mulligan said. “We have a lot of interest in the program.”

PSE staff figures the program will fill up in one day of emailed applications. Agency staff will notify applicants shortly thereafter it they were chosen.

This is the second phase of PSE’s Green Direct program. The first phase involved purchasing wind power. The participants included Starbucks, Sound Transit, REI, King County, Western Washington University (Bellingham), the Port of Seattle, the cities of Anacortes, Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey and others.

PSE reached out to city of Kent staff about the program. If Kent is selected, the council would need to ratify an agreement.

“We did some research, crunched some numbers and it supports the city’s goal to reduce our carbon footprint,” Butsick said in an interview after the council meeting. “Coal is the biggest concern we want to replace with renewable energy because it’s a dirtier source of power and it’s not sustainable.”

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