Seattle - Seattle officials said today that Seattle City Light's today's sale of its eight
percent share in the Centralia Coal-Fired Power Plant represents a commitment to a cleaner
"We are moving toward a future with more green and renewable power sources," said Gary Zarker,
City Light Superintendent. Zarker cautioned, however, that this future that is not without risk.
"The marketplace for electricity is more volatile today and the sale of our share in the plant
means we'll be in the market more often. Developing new green resources also carries risk.
We're on the right path, but we should not mistake it as the easy path."
The coal mine and steam generating plant in Centralia started generating energy in 1971.
At the time, its emissions technology was state of the art, but in recent years it lagged
behind and became the largest source of sulpher dioxide in the Puget Sound area.
The ownership group, led by the Portland-based private utility Pacificorp, decided to offer
the plant for sale in 1998. The new owner the Canadian energy company TransAlta. The new
owners will be required to significantly upgrade the pollution control systems. The purchase
price was US$554 million.
"Our choice was to invest heavily in an old coal plant or turn toward new renewables and
cleaner sources of electricity," said Margaret Pageler, Seattle City Council President
and the council's Energy Committee chair when the decision was made to sell Seattle's
share. "While the plant is relatively cheap compared to other prices in the region,
we think this is a good economic and strategic choice for the long run."
The City of Seattle has made a commitment to an electricity future that is "carbon-neutral."
This means that City Light's energy generation will create no net emissions of greenhouse
gasses. In a resolution passed last month concurrent with Earth Day, the City strengthened
its commitment to green resources. The new energy will come from conservation, new renewables
such as wind, geothermal, solar and landfill gas, or existing electricity produced without
burning of fossil fuel. If fossil fuel use is necessary, the City will offset the emissions
through other measures such as forest protection.
The Mayor and City Council will be making several decisions over the next few months on
the sources of its new energy. About a third of City Light's existing energy supply is
in play as the utility seeks to replace the electricity from Centralia and from the
expiration of its current contract with the Bonneville Power Administration and other
power supply agreements.
City Light's update of its Strategic Resources Plan will call for substantial additional
supplies of non-hydro renewable electricity such as wind, solar, landfill gas and
geothermal. The utility's internationally recognized conservation program may also