SEATTLE -- City Light will be in a higher state of readiness this winter, alert for cold snaps and storms that could disrupt the smooth delivery of electricity.
“We are very good at keeping the lights on when we get bad weather, but we could have additional challenges this winter because of tight power supplies and a fragile Western transmission grid,” said City Light Superintendent Gary Zarker.
City Light will be working with customers large and small if a cold snap is imminent or transmission problems occur. All the regional power institutions such as the Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwest Power Pool are also taking extra precautions this year.
“California experienced blackouts and numerous power alerts last summer because demand was high and supply was low. Now the Northwest is in its peak season for power demand, and the supply picture has not improved,” Zarker said.
City Light is in better shape than most other utilities because it generates more than half the power it needs to serve its customers. The rest comes from long-term contracts, the Bonneville Power Administration and the wholesale market. But this year, the wholesale market is unstable and expensive.
Zarker said City Light is talking with its large customers and other city departments on how to reduce their electric load in emergencies and developing plans for communicating with residential customers. It is also preparing plans to reach out to the general public on what people can do to reduce electricity use if needed.
Meanwhile, City Light’s line crews are gearing up to respond to storm-related power outages. Crews will be available to work around the clock throughout the service territory, which extends from the north King County line through the cities of Burien and Tukwila to the south. Customers should notify City Light of a power outage by calling the Outage Hotline at 206.684.7400 and remember to keep a safe distance from fallen electrical lines.
Each household should keep drinking water, dry food and first-aid materials on hand and prepare a power outage kit that includes such basics as flashlight with batteries, battery-operated radio, manual can opener and blankets. The utility is communicating directly with customers relying on life-support machines to make sure back-up power is available.
“We are preparing for winter, and we’re asking our customers to do the same,” Zarker said. “We’re taking our message to all city departments, and at the same time helping our customers save electricity and money.”
Since City Light’s conservation programs began in 1977, customers have saved an estimated $187 million in electricity bills and the utility has saved 5.7 million megawatt-hours, enough to power the entire city for 18 months.
Visit Seattle City Light's web site at cityofseattle.net/light for more information on conservation and winter preparation.