SEATTLE— Seattle City Light and the Bonneville Power Administration are urgently calling for Northwest citizens and businesses to conserve electricity as high temperatures and record demand for electricity continue to grip California.
California has declared a Power Watch Day for the third consecutive day this week and is forecasting a record one-day demand for electricity. Yesterday the state declared a Stage 2 power emergency, requiring voluntary interruption of service to certain customers to avoid more severe interruptions.
BPA yesterday began generating more power for California by diverting water normally spilled to help fish passage at lower Columbia River dams.
“Our Seattle-area customers are in no immediate danger of blackouts,” said City Light Superintendent Gary Zarker, “but clearly the Northwest is exposed to a very volatile market that shows no signs of stabilizing in the near future.”
Zarker said conservation is the quickest way to reduce the stress on Northwest power systems and help ensure continued salmon protection at lower Columbia dams.
In addition to the hot weather, the West’s electrical energy market has been affected this summer by a lack of new generation facilities, an outdated transmission system, industry deregulation and high natural-gas prices. In San Diego, where electrical rates are tied directly to market prices, residential customers have seen their bills skyrocket. San Diego Gas and Electric Co. customers are paying five times as much for electricity as City Light customers.
“We are fortunate that we generate or have long-term contracts for almost 75 percent of our load,” Zarker said. “That insulates us to some extent from market prices. But our city-owned dams generate less power in the fall and winter, so we are entering a period in which we will have to buy electricity at high market rates.”
Zarker said City Light is looking at a range of alternatives, both short and long term, for dealing with the changing energy scene. In addition to more aggressive conservation, options include securing a new contract for more BPA power, purchasing more renewable resources such as wind and solar energy, adjusting rates perhaps next year to reflect higher power costs, and purchasing part of the output of a combustion turbine.
“Our overall goal is to maintain Seattle’s tradition of clean, reliable, affordable electricity,” Zarker said. “We welcome and encourage public involvement this fall as we explore and discuss our options.”
More information about City Light conservation programs is available by calling 684-3800 or on the Web at http://www.cityofseattle.net/light/conserve/ .