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Seattle City Light DEBRA SMITH, General Manager and CEO
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Public Power: A Tradition

Public power is one of the oldest forms of electric utility ownership in the U.S. It is a gift inherited from past generations. Thanks to the Seattle voters who approved a bond issue to develop a hydroelectric facility on the Cedar River in 1902 — beginning of public power in Seattle, and the nation's first municipally owned hydro project. Thanks also to J.D. Ross, "Father of City Light" who supported public power. At Seattle City Light, we pride ourselves on serving our customers with public power.

What Is Public Power?

Like community schools, parks, and hospitals, public power systems are local institutions working together to meet local needs. Without earning a profit, public power systems operate to provide an essential public service at a reasonable cost. We are governed by elected Seattle officials, guided by public involvement, and supported by customer revenues, not taxes. In fact, the utility pays substantial taxes to state and local governments.

What Are the Benefits?

  • Lower rates. On a national average, public power rates are significantly lower than private power companies. Seattle City Light's rates continue to be among the lowest in the nation, and are set to recover only the cost of providing power and to remain financially stable.
  • Quality service. Public power systems advance the quality of service and technology because they provide the latitude to make local decisions that best suit local needs. We are in business to sustain and enhance our community's quality of life by providing excellent energy services.
  • Commitment to the environment. An extended responsibility beyond providing power is to protect the environment and be stewards of all the resources that contribute to the product. We are committed to promote and support efficient use of power to minimize the need for new sources of generation.

Whom Does It Serve?

About 46 million Americans receive power from more than 2,000 public power systems operated by municipalities, counties, states, cities, or other public bodies. Public power systems are in every state except Hawaii. We are the nation's 10th largest public power system, serving about 400,000 customers.

The electric utility industry has been responding to competitive changes since the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The public power system's success in this new competitive marketplace benefits all electric consumers because this form of competition, by comparison, helps to hold down electric rates. Today we are well situated to respond to these changes. Seattle City Light’s ability to deliver quality service and provide the lowest cost, most reliable electricity in urban America has never been stronger.

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    700 5th Avenue
    Suite 3200
    P.O. Box 34023
    Seattle, WA 98124-4023

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